Informational interview

Responding to an Informational Interview Request

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.

 

Why Should You Agree to an Informational Interview Request?

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.

 

Man checking watch

 

How to Ensure an Informational Interview is Worth Your Time

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.

  • Know why you’re agreeing to the interview. First, know why you’re agreeing to do the informational interview. Whether it’s to pass on your knowledge, strengthen your employer brand, or build your network, understanding the reason you’re saying “yes” will keep the interview focused.
  • Set expectations. Once you know the “why,” set expectations about what the job seeker will gain from the interview. Be clear that you’re willing to help them learn, but don’t have any jobs available. Or maybe you are interested in hiring the person – that’s OK, too, as long as you’re upfront about it.
  • Ask for questions in advance. It’s frustrating to agree to an informational interview only to be asked basic questions than can be answered on Google. By getting the questions from the interviewer beforehand, you’ll know if the person is truly interested in gaining insights into your industry. If they do come back with basic questions, ask if they can expand on their queries and be as specific as possible.
  • Arrange it around your schedule. It’s common for job seekers to ask to meet over lunch or coffee, and while that sounds nice, not everyone has time to head out to the local Starbucks. If your schedule is tight, it’s OK to say, “I’m sorry; I can’t meet for coffee, but I can talk to you over the phone.”

 

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How to Respond to an Informational Interview Request

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.

If Your Schedule is Wide Open

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:

Hi [Name],

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.

If You Don’t Have Much Time

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:

Hi [Name],

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.

If You Must Say “No”

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:

Hi [Name],

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.

by: Doug Atkinson
September 27, 2021