An informational interview is a great way for job seekers to learn more about a particular company or industry and grow their professional networks. They receive valuable insights into their field of interest for little to no charge, better equipping them to succeed in their job search. However, while it may cost the interviewer nothing more than a cup of coffee, it costs the interviewee, you, something very valuable… time.
That’s not to say informational interviews aren’t worthwhile for employers, but some people might think they’re too busy to agree to one. If that’s you, there are ways you can craft your informational interview response so that everyone involved is getting the most from the conversation.
If you’re unsure if you should even agree to an informational interview in the first place, the short answer is usually “yes.” You might not be able to accommodate every informational interview request, but if you have 15-30 minutes to spare in your schedule, it can be rewarding to counsel a job seeker on what it’s really like to work in your industry.
You wouldn’t be where you are right now without guidance and help from others – and one of the best reasons to agree to an informational interview is to pay all your accumulated wisdom forward to those who can use it. Remember, an informational interview is not about getting a job. You’re under no obligation to offer anything other than your knowledge and experience.
Unfortunately, many job seekers do treat an informational interview as a way to land a job, or at least meet someone who can get them one. While it’s understandable to want a job, it’s also discouraging to realize you’ve been misled by the initial request. To mitigate the chances of that happening, use these tips when putting together your informational interview response.
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Ultimately, your response to the informational interview request will depend on your schedule. Below are some ideas to get you started on the best way to reply.
This template gives you the most options for your response. Since a job seeker is asking to meet with you, pick a day, time, and location. You can start with:
Thank you for reaching out. I’m always delighted to share my advice for breaking into [industry]. I’m able to meet on [date] [in person/virtually/on the phone] from [timeframe] to answer your questions. I want to make you aware that currently, we do not have any open positions at [company], but I would be happy to share with you what I can.
Odds are, you don’t have a wide-open schedule. In this case, quick phone interviews work best and can still yield good results. Reply with:
I would love to meet with you but unfortunately my schedule limits me to a quick phone call. I can do [date/time]. I would appreciate you sending your questions to me in advance so we can make the most of the time.
In some cases, you’ll be too busy to meet in person or over the phone. You can’t always help it, but if you’re still interested in lending your knowledge, ask for the job seekers’ questions and answer them by email. Say:
Thank you for reaching out, but I am fully booked at the moment. If you want to email me your questions, I would be happy to take a look when I get a chance and get back to you.
Informational interviews are a great way to pay it forward to both up-and-coming and seasoned job seekers in your industry. For more interviewing tips, visit our Employer Resource Center.