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Learn from experts: Why informational interviews give you the inside scoop

If we told you the best way to land your dream job was to cold call strangers and ask them for career advice — would you do it? Our guess is: probably not — that sounds intimidating.

In an informational interview, you meet with someone who works in a position, industry, or company of interest to gather information on real-life experiences. The information you learn in this type of interview can ultimately help you find a job, but they are so much more than that; they help you gain exposure and identify what you want from a role.

At first, seeking informational interviews can feel like a cold call, but the rewards are worth it. This networking technique has unique value, and we’re here to offer real-world strategies for you to reach out confidently.

Why informational interviews?

If you are at a point in your career where you are considering a change or are just curious about what’s out there, figuring out your next step can be daunting. 

There are many benefits to starting off your search with informational interviews: 

  • Career exploration and clarification. It’s an opportunity to learn what really happens in your desired role or industry.
  • Network expansion. You can build new long-term relationships when you connect with professionals in your desired field.
  • Boosted confidence. Casual and informal interviews often have lower stakes and can be used to practice and get comfortable with the interview process.
  • Exclusive information. You could gain access to insider intel or learn the most up-to-date information about your career field or areas of interest.
  • Self-realization. You can use new information to make informed decisions about your professional journey and how your strengths fit into an industry or role.
  • Job search clarity. Feedback and insights from your conversations can help to recalibrate your job search strategy or goals.

Now that you have a solid understanding of informational interviews and why they happen, we’d love to provide context for what they can look like in real life. We spoke with one industry professional to discuss her experiences with informational interviewing and how it has positively impacted her career. Continue reading to learn more about Leiya Kenney and hear the answers she provided during our Q&A session.

Informational interviews in practice

We spoke to Kenney, a boot camp alumni, about her first-hand experiences with informational interviews.

After graduating from her boot camp in 2020, she conducted informational interviews as part of her own career search. And, later as a software engineer, Kenney was also interviewed by interested candidates.

We chatted about approaching sensitive topics like pay and vacation, how to use LinkedIn during your research phase, and her best piece of advice — don’t overthink it.

Kenney’s tips have been consolidated into three categories: who to ask, what to ask, and how to prepare, but you can also hear this guidance in her own words in the Q&A: Informational Interview.

Tips from Kenney

Who to ask

  • Network through your program and use relevant communication channels (Slack) to make connections.
  • Go to the company’s page on LinkedIn; it shows any first and second connections you may share. If you have any mutual connections, be sure to utilize them. This might help to make your messages stand out.
  • You can always reach out to a hiring manager on LinkedIn — sometimes to even ask questions asynchronously — but remember that they may be slightly less candid with their responses.

What to ask

  • Use your best judgment where time is concerned — but 15 to 30 minutes is typical. If whoever you’re interviewing has more time, they’ll usually let you know. 
  • Informational interviews are generally more relaxed, so there are questions you can ask that make more sense in this informal setting as opposed to jumping in at that first interview.
  • Instead of asking pointed questions about sensitive topics (for example, about salary), ask in a “softer” way (for example, what do the benefits look like? Is the pay competitive?). 
  • An informational interview can be something other than company-specific; you can also discuss other general topics like job hunting. 
  • If you enjoyed the conversation and want to keep it going, or if you want to have a follow-up meeting or regular meeting cadence, feel free to express your interest.

How to prepare

  • Try to do some preliminary research on the person and their company so you can dive deeper into secondary questions instead of covering only preliminary ones. 
  • If you’re nervous, practice your questions on somebody else or even on yourself. 
  • Present yourself well, be mindful of their (and your own) time, and come in with at least a few questions prepared.
  • Ensure there’s an easy way to contact you following the informational interview. 

We hope Kenney’s advice empowers you to tackle more informational interviews during your career! With a bit of practice, you can expand your network, gain unique insights, and take the fear out of interviews.

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