Informational Interviews: The Key to Networking

Informational Interviews: The Key to Networking

Informational interviews are typically 20-60 minute conversations that give you an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about organizations, career paths, industries, and potential opportunities directly from someone in the field.

It allows you to attain insight into the day-to-day realities of working in a specified field and can help you decide what type of role would be a good fit for you. Because healthcare is so vast, oftentimes you end up learning about careers that you never knew even existed!

It’s important to note that this is not a job interview but rather an opportunity to listen and learn. That does not mean that you shouldn’t put your best foot forward since sometimes these interviews can lead to an actual interview. We’ve put together a comprehensive strategy of how to be prepared to get the most out of any informational interview. 

Finding your person of interest 

First, you’ll need to identify someone from your field of interest you’d like to speak to. It’s often best to start with people you know and see if they can connect you to someone else afterward. LinkedIn is a great way to find out if you have any mutual connections with someone you may want to be connected to.

If you’re a student, your alumni networking is the informational interview equivalent of a pot of gold. Alumni are typically more receptive to speaking with and helping students and could even serve as a future mentor too. Consider asking health professionals where you work or volunteer, friends and relatives, your healthcare providers, or on online directories or sites like LinkedIn. 

Scheduling the appointment

Reach out to your person of interest requesting an appointment via email or phone. Be sure to state who you are, mention who your mutual connection is, and why you are reaching out to them.

People are typically flattered when someone reaches out to them to learn more about their career path and current role so they will likely be eager to talk. Always be professional and let them know in advance that you will be requesting 20-30 minutes of their time. Once you set up a time, it’s always nice to set up a calendar invite and share it with including any necessary information. 

Preparing for the interview 

You’ll want to do some preliminary research about the person you’ll be interviewing and prepare a list of questions you’ll want to have answered. LinkedIn is a great place to get an understanding of their career path and interests so you know how to personalize your questions.

Trying to focus on asking questions that get you an insider’s view on what the day to day in their role is like and avoid any questions that can be easily answered on the organization website or through a simple google search. Some sample questions you can ask are:

  1. Can you walk me through your career journey and how you ended choosing this career field?
  2. What is a typical day or week like? 
  3. How does the work of your division or office fit into the work of the organization as a whole?
  4. Is there something you would have done differently knowing what you know now?
  5. What is the most rewarding aspect of your role and what are some challenges?
  6. What skills or talents are most essential for effective job performance in this job?
  7. How does this role affect your work-life balance?
  8. What is the general structure of the organization? How does one typically move from position to position? 
  9. If you were to hire someone to work with you today, what factors would be most important in your hiring decision and why?
  10. What type of personalities fit in best at your company/what’s the culture?
  11. How well suited is my background for this type of work? What educational or professional preparation do you feel would be best?
  12. Based on our conversation today, can you suggest other people who may be able to provide additional information?

During the interview

If you’re meeting in person, make sure you’re dressed in business casual attire and arrive a fe3w minutes early. Initiate conversation and ask questions that you prepared ahead of time but also allow the conversation to flow naturally and be open to asking questions as they come up in conversation. You want to be respectful of their busy schedules so make sure you stick to your allotted time slot.

Always, always, always end the conversation by thanking them for their time and asking if they can connect you to other professionals you may find helpful based on the conversation you had. If the conversation goes well, ask if you can contact them in the future with any additional questions. 

Following Up

Always send a thank-you note within 24 hours but preferably the same day of the interview. Follow up with your new contact via email thanking them for their time and share some things you learned from the conversation and how it was helpful for you (be specific). If they mentioned they’d be willing to connect you with someone else, mention that in the email and thank them for offering to do that (this will also remind them to do that in case they forgot). Additionally, it’s best practice to take notes on what was discussed during the interview, with whom, and on what day. Keep track of all of your informational interviews so that you can go back and reference when necessary (and trust me, you will want to reference these at some point!)

It’s always best to conduct several informational interviews asking similar questions to a variety of people to get an overall perspective and identify patterns about the role or career field.

It’s good to get into the habit of doing these types of interviews throughout your career to expand your knowledge base and network, no just when you’re looking for a job. Good luck interviewing!

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About the author

Hajar Ahmed

Hajar Ahmed is a healthcare professional with a background in public health policy and management. She’s passionate about reducing health disparities and helping to implement wellness practices in everyday life. When she’s not off on a new travel adventure or cooking up a storm, she’s reading, writing, and talking healthcare.

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