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.


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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