The ins and outs of informational interviewing

August 7, 2014

Informational interview

Just the other day someone asked me if an informational interview is similar to coffee talk and learn more about a person’s job. Now, I regularly receive questions about informational interviewing as new entrepreneurs and as job seekers. I see it as part of an entrepreneur’s journey to develop your own value and gain credibility.

So here’s my take on what a successful informational interview holds.

A prepared interviewer

The term “interviewer” is exaggerated; no one is expecting you to be the next up and coming cross-examiner. What is expected and respectful is to prepare before meeting the person who agreed to meet you.

This, usually more experienced, person is able to tell you more about their position, their company and potentially refer you to someone else in their network. And does this without compensation, because they have been in your shoes. Paul Nazareth is one of Toronto’s greatest networkers and wrote this post about preparation.

Ask interesting questions

Yes, that seems like a given, but trust me it is not. A standard question such as “what did you do to get this position” is more interesting if you captivate your coffee date with your unique story. What brings you here? What were major decisions or situations that influenced your life?

Keeping in mind most informational interviews are half an hour long, have your story at the right length to provide context without taking up the majority of the time.

Showcase your knowledge

The aim of the informational interview is to learn from your “coffee date”, and this is true for both sides. So reserve a little bit of time to share what your expertise is without promoting yourself.

Have you blogged about your passion? Then perhaps your coffee date is interested in reading some posts. Often this type of information is shared when introducing you to someone else.

Follow these simple guidelines for productive and respectful meetings. Have stories to share about your informational interview techniques or successes? Please share them below.

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Lisette Andreyko

Lisette is the founder of Kaleidoscope and is passionate about start-up leadership, personal growth and women in business (and psst.. about tea!). She enjoys connecting with small businesses through her network. You can find her on LinkedIn.