4 ways informational interviews add value

by Jan 23, 2020

4 ways informational interviews add value

Don’t forget that interviews are a two-way street and bosses and organisations should be under as much scrutiny as the job seeker, which is why informational interviews add value to your job search.

To be clear, informational interviews are not job interviews, they are part of the networking process as it applies to looking for a specific job. When done correctly, informational interviews can add value to your job search. They allow you to prepare more thoroughly for your recruitment process and to equip yourself with the right data to make an informed decision. Candidates are frequently so pre-occupied with getting hired that they often forget that interviews are a two-way street and bosses and organisations should be under as much scrutiny as the job seeker.

informational interviews add value


  • Look for key people in the company – not the hiring manager or the HR manager, but people in your network with whom you are connected working within the company. This should be close enough to the key players to be well-informed, but not so close that you look like a rabid stalker. Your alumni network from schools and universities can be a good place to start.
  • Check the company page on LinkedIn you will see a list of people who work there. Check how many are in your network and are first level connections. Approach them first.
  • If you have no first level connections you can connect with someone you don’t know, but the best solution would be to ask for an introduction from an existing contact. Most people are happy to help, provided it doesn’t take up too much time. Be very clear about how much time you are looking for and make sure you stick to it.
  • Prepare questions so you the meeting is productive and focus on the questions specific to your application. Make sure you ask open-ended questions, rather than yes/no responses and allow the person to elaborate in their own words. Rather than “do you know the x function?” “How does x function work with the rest of the organisation?”
  • Make a note of what isn’t being said. Sometimes the real information is what is not stated explicitly. Listen intently and ask more probing questions to dig deeper. Some benefits such as flexible working etc. which maybe part of the wider company policy, are not always implemented by certain bosses.
  • Be discreet. This should be on a fact gathering basis and without sharing any conclusions you may make. If someone suggests something negative simply note it. If you feel it needs amplifying ask for facts “What makes you say that?” Above all don’t show interest in gossip.
  • Process feedback.  You should incorporate any useful info into your application whether at the CV stage or the interview process. Insider tips are invaluable.

4 ways informational interviews add value

1. Researching the company

Company data is generally in the public domain but it is the information that may not be out in the open, you want to get your hands on. Details on plans around expansion, new products and other developments help you understand what type of future the company has. And obviously don’t forget to check out social proofing sites such as Glassdoor, salary.com and Payscale. You will find some very open responses that will give you the basis for preparing your questions for current employees.

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2. Researching the culture

This is always a tricky part. This comes under the umbrella of “this the way we do things here” which can be hard to establish and even more difficult to navigate. Just because an organisation has lunch time yoga classes doesn’t necessarily mean it is forward-looking. Find out about rewards and recognition, the benefit system, how decisions are made and communicated and the leadership style. Look out for evasive answers and follow-up if you can.

3. Researching the team

Check out the team of people you could be working with. Find out as discreetly as you can what type of people they are and how they are perceived by outsiders to work together. Bear in mind that you are only getting a notional idea and if you go through the interview you should ask to meet them. Many employers now do this as part of the interview process.

4. Researching the boss

Selecting the right boss is as important as getting the job. It impacts how you feel about your career, the company and even yourself. That person is usually the hiring manager and will end up influencing many parts if your life even the bits outside the work place. It’s important that you learn as much about them as you can. In an interview everyone is on their best behaviour so it’s important to dig a little deeper which means going beyond the qualifications and experience on the LinkedIn profile.

Here it helps to have a high level of self-awareness with a good understanding of what conditions help you succeed and thrive. Have a list of specific characteristics that you need to deliver your best performance. Establish management and communication style, how they measure success and how they will help you succeed.

Informational interviews are a critical part of the networking piece of the job search process. Make sure you know how to make the most of it and listen to an act on  the information you are receiving. It will be worth it.

A key aspect of professional development is having experienced people you can ask for help. 3Plus has a wide range of experienced Coaches and Mentors available to help you. Contact us NOW for more details.

Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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