Interviews / Job Search

The joys of the informational interview

A staple of anybody’s professional life in DC, the informational interview is a great way to expand your network and get your name and credentials out there among the city’s corporate or government bigwigs.

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But that’s not all they are good for. As the name suggests, informational interviews are a good way to decide if a certain career path is for you. Do you value your free time and weekends? Ask how much work there has to be done outside the traditional 9-5 work week. Do you want to travel? Find out how much – or how little – travel is expected in particular positions and certain industries.

As you might expect, there are lots of suggestions on what to ask at informational interviews – here, here and here are good places to start – but they all agree on the following things:

  • Prepare an agenda beforehand. Don’t waste your contact’s time.
  • Make sure you tailor the questions to fit the interview. It shows you are serious and have done your research.
  • Don’t try to squeeze in too many questions. It’s better to leave your contact wanting more instead of wearing out your welcome.
  • Dress smart. Although they’re not formal job interviews, informational interviews are an opportunity to make a great impression on prospective employers.

There is, however, one question which should never be asked at an informational interview: never ask for a job. If all goes well during the interview, the job opportunities will come later.

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