Why you should be interviewing even if you aren’t looking for a job

Aug 21, 2019, 6:29 AM | Updated: Aug 30, 2022, 3:34 pm
Stock Photo...
Stock Photo

(CNN) — We should all be doing more informational interviews.

These meetings can help us figure out the next step in our career path, get the inside scoop on what it’s like to work at a particular company or learn more about an industry we’re contemplating breaking into.

“Informational interviews can be really good for your career and allow you to learn more…in a mediumto lowpressure way vs. an actual interview, which can be higher pressure,” said Mary Pharris, director of marketing and communications at Fairygodboss.

Who should you reach out to?

The key to a useful informational interview is finding the right person to meet with. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time, so make sure you’re meeting with someone who has the experience and knowledge you are looking for.

Start within your own network. Try your LinkedIn connections, college alumni, professional associations and even friends who might know someone who has the job you ultimately want, works at your dream company or is a leader in an industry you want to move into.

Just be sure that you are truly interested in learning more from the person you’re requesting time with and it’s not just some random career idea you thought you might be interested in.

“You need to be very cognizant people are spending political capital on your behalf to make these asks,” said Dorie Clark, author of “Entrepreneurial You.”

Don’t be scared to reach out to someone you have no established connections with either. But make sure you’re clear about why you picked that person to talk to and what you hope to get out of the meeting.

How to make the request

An email or LinkedIn message tends to be the best way to request an informational interview.

Be sure to provide a little background about yourself, your career goals and what you are looking to achieve with the meeting, suggested Michelle Armer, chief people officer at CareerBuilder.

You should also explain to the person why you chose to reach out to them. And whatever you do, don’t say, you want to pick their brain, experts agreed.

Be specific with your request. Set a time limit for the meeting (no more than an hour) and throw out a few dates to choose from. You can offer to buy them a cup coffee at a nearby shop or come to their office if that’s more convenient.

“You want to make it as easy possible for the person you are asking,” said Pharris.

What to ask

The key to getting the most out of these interviews is asking the right questions.

Do your research ahead of time to avoid asking questions you can easily find the answers to yourself (for instance: How big is the company?). That will allow for more pointed questions that will garner more useful answers.

If you aspire to climb to the role of the person you are meeting with, then ask about their experience: What motivates them? How did they get into the field? What do they like about it?

“Personalize the questions to the individual you are talking to,” said Katharine Brooks, Evans Family Executive Director of the Career Center at Vanderbilt University.

If you are looking to learn more about a company to see if it’s a potential fit, ask what the person likes about the company, work-life balance and the opportunities they’ve had.

“You can get a feel for the cultures of the company by asking questions like whether people are encouraged to learn, do they see the company as interested in growing and developing employees and if there is opportunity to move up,” said Brooks.

For people considering switching industries altogether, it’s helpful to ask how your current talents and experience could translate in the field and which new skills you should learn to be successful.

“Ask: ‘If you were in my position with my background looking to transfer into this area, what do you think would be the perceived weaknesses I need to overcome?’,’What specific steps would you be taking right now if you were in my shoes,?'” suggested Clark.

What not to ask

One question to avoid is asking for a job. Remember: An informational interview is not a job interview and is not the time to ask for a job.

“They are helping you develop a network to have a job, but they aren’t necessarily your job link,” said Brooks.

The follow up

Be sure to send a thank you email or card as well. And be detailed. Show your gratitude and also reiterate one specific part or detail from the meeting that you enjoyed or found helpful.

If the meeting went well and the person seemed open to potentially helping you in the future, you can attach your resume with a simple request like: If you are comfortable, please feel free to pass along my resume to whom you see fit.

And don’t let the relationship die after the interview. Connect with them on LinkedIn if you aren’t already, and find ways to stay in touch.

During the interview, try to glean some personal tidbit about the person that you can also use to help follow up and stay connected in the future, suggested Clark. For instance, maybe they mention they are a big Yankees fan. Take note of that and then reach out if the team has a particularly good winning streak.

™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories


President Joe Biden is pictured speaking at a podium...
Steve Contorno, CNN

Biden to tour Ian damage in Florida with DeSantis feud on hold for now

Dave and Dujanovic are joined by ABC News Correspondent in Washington to talk about President Biden and First Lady vistiting Florida after the hurricane. Listen Live at 9:30 a.m.   Originally Published: 05 OCT 22 05:00 ET Updated: 05 OCT 22 09:57 ET (CNN) — President Joe Biden will visit Florida on Wednesday to see first-hand […]
22 hours ago
A surface-to-surface missile is fired into the sea off the east coast in this handout picture provi...
Yoonjung Seo, Caitlin Hu, Eric Cheung and Brad Lendon, CNN

US and South Korea test-fire missiles in continued response after North Korea launch

In response to a recent test missile launch by North Korea, the US and South Korea launched four missiles off the Korean Peninsula Wednesday morning.
22 hours ago
Three Fresh Carnitas Tacos on a plate wth lime and radish...
Casey Barber, CNN

Make every day National Taco Day with these tasty recipes

October 4 is National Taco Day, but any day in October (or any month, really) is a worthwhile opportunity to dive into the diverse world of tacos.
2 days ago
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) with Ukrainian separatist regional leaders Vladimir Saldo (L),...
Olga Voitovych and Joshua Berlinger, CNN

Russian Parliament begins process to rubber-stamp annexations as Moscow struggles to define borders

Despite there being no set boundaries, Russia's parliament began the process of approving Vladmir Putin's decision to annex part of Ukraine.
2 days ago
FILE - This photo provided by the North Korean government shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un del...
Yoonjung Seo, Emiko Jozuka, Junko Ogura, Brad Lendon and Simone McCarthy, CNN

Japan issues rare alert as North Korea fires missile without warning over main island

The US Indo-Pacific Command also released a statement saying American commitments to the defense of Japan and South Korea "remain ironclad."
2 days ago
FORT MYERS BEACH, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 02:   In this aerial view,  destruction left in the wake of Hur...
Nouran Salahieh, CNN

Florida faces an ’emotional roller coaster’ as search for Hurricane Ian survivors continues

Many of the Ian-related deaths -- 42 -- have been reported in southwestern Florida's Lee County, which includes Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Why you should be interviewing even if you aren’t looking for a job