An informational interview has two main purposes. Primarily, it’s an opportunity for you to learn more about a company or a career path you’re interested in pursuing. It’s also an ideal time for the interviewer to meet with you face-to-face and get to know you better in the hopes that down the road, if they like you and your skill set enough, they’ll think of you when a job position opens up at their company, or even better; they may create a position for you.

Informational interviews oftentimes are conducted by someone in human resources, but also can be held with the manager of a particular department. The following is what you need to know beforehand to have a stellar meeting. Good luck!

Prepare. You’ve clearly sold yourself well on the phone or via email since you’ve landed an informational interview. Do your homework on the company by reading their website and social media pages and prepare an educated list of questions. Gather information on the company’s recent achievements and announcements and be ready to mention them during the interview. Identify the specific information you want to learn more about, and create your questions around those themes. Remember that you’ll want to get what you can out of a meeting that’s only 15 or 30 minutes long, so don’t waste your time on subjects you don’t really care about. Also, carry an updated resume and any relevant portfolio clips with you, but don’t offer them until they are requested.

Dress the part. Even though this is a “casual” interview, dress as you would if you were interviewing for a specific position. Don’t wear jeans, and look clean and tidy, even if you’re in a creative field.

Be on time. Your interviewer is doing you a favor by taking the time to meet with you, so respect his or her time and don’t be late. You’ll only make a bad impression. You should be walking through the door and heading towards reception no sooner or later than 10 minutes prior to the arranged interview start time. 10 minutes early tells the interviewer that you’re punctual, but not desperate.

Listen closely and take notes. Have a written list of intelligent questions to ask about the company, industry and career path, and allow the interviewer the chance to answer while you take notes (but don’t be too glued to your notes). Show interest in what he or she is saying. Remember to ask at least one question specifically about the interviewer. Examples: Why do you like working here? Tell me, how has your career progressed with the company? People love to tell their own stories. This is a great way to initiate an honest and open dialogue about growth opportunities.

Send a thank you. Follow up with an email that thanks your interviewer for their time and insight. Continue to stay in touch via email to let them know how their advice has helped you.

Do you have a question or concern about your upcoming informational interview? Please let us know!

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