How to give a good informational interview
June 23, 2016 1:38 PM   Subscribe

A few times a year, I receive requests for informational interviews from recent graduates interested in entering my field. I'm always happy to accommodate these requests, but I want to make sure I'm not overlooking any key information or advice that I could be passing on. If you've given informational interviews yourself, or if you're someone who has benefited from good informational interviews as you got started in your field, I'd like to hear from you!

A little context: I have more than ten years experience working full-time in a fairly specialized field within the arts; staff/institutional jobs tend to low in number and openings are competitive, but there is a fair amount of freelance opportunity. Gender-wise, in my experience this field has tended to be more equitable and less inclined to sexist BS than other fields I've worked in (I say this because I'm a woman and all the requests for informational interviews I've received thus far have been from women, but of course I'd be just as happy to meet with men looking to break into the field).

Given these parameters, what are some good things to keep in mind on my end during informational interviews? The women I've spoken with have always come well prepared with good questions, but I want to make sure I'm not overlooking anything. One of my concerns is that I can be very chatty, which on one hand I suppose is good because I have lots to say, but on the other hand I worry can be bad because then I might be turning the interview into more of a conversational gabfest (as pleasant as that might be) rather than a professional exchange of info. I'm aware that my field can be a hard one to break into, so I want to do right by anyone who comes to speak to me as they get started on their careers.
posted by fizzyliftingdrink to Work & Money (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
One of the things I'd want to ask about for informational interviews are where to look for jobs for a particular field. I think this is really industry-specific and for a lot of fields changes over the years. So maybe current info about actually finding jobs postings. You offering this might be good because it could feel a little weird asking about jobs with companies other than yours.

I'd say talk about common pitfalls you see for new grads/career changers would be helpful. What habits/techniques/knowledge helps people really succeed. What do you wish you'd have known when you started.

It's great that you want to do these and really be helpful about it, btw. I'm going to be needing to do some myself in six months or so and it's nice to know there are people like you out there!
posted by Beti at 3:09 PM on June 23, 2016

Seconding talking about the job hunt. People are requesting informational interviews because they want to be hired in the field. Even if the answer is "networking" tell them what types of professional events tend to be helpful (volunteering, career fairs, an annual conference?).
posted by raccoon409 at 3:30 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maybe this applies to your field. I've heard 3 lawyers say how they answer when asked about the career (from law school to partner) by those contemplating law school. They say it's easy to find on the Web the stories by those who left law school, or the job search, or the profession. Many reasons cited are really the same reason: I didn't know about (fill in the blank). How do those in your field fill in that blank?
posted by Homer42 at 9:38 PM on June 23, 2016

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