Getting in the door: Networking with Informational Interviewing

Photo by Big Fat Rat

Photo by Big Fat Rat

Getting in the Door Series: Answering common questions on how to get the ball rolling in your job search. #1 Networking with informational interviewing.

In the career and resume industry, career professionals have for years encouraged their clients to go for informational interviews. I have done my share of demonstrating to clients that they have a network, how to use it to find jobs and how to take the first step.

How you can do your own informational interviewing

For the past few years, with clients, I periodically pick one to have lunch with and just get to know each other.

Usually, this is a client I have bonded with, worked with over a period of time and perhaps have gotten to know personally in my office setting. Some of those clients have also become part of my team of Trusted Advisors.

This is a difficult economy and I am blessed with a large network. At times, the needs of my clients are a direct match for my network, other times there is the potential for brainstorming sessions.

Brainstorming, informational interviewing, or networking sessions can help the job seekers learn of opportunities that are in the hidden job market and also evaluate the market options without getting into the application phase.

In the past, when I described “informational interviewing” I was met with blank stares. The advent of social media and the overall emphasis on networking has made this make more sense to more people but it is still something that many people don’t get.

Let’s define informational interviewing:

An informational interview is pretty much what it says — in a job search situation, you determine who might be connected to the industry or company you want to work for and you set up a meeting.

The meeting could be over coffee or lunch but in any case, if there is a cost involved, you are the one who will pay for any food or drinks involved. Your goal is to gather information. You should always have your resume with you but it is not your goal to hand off your resume in the informational interview.

  • If you are informational interviewing for a specific company or corporation, you are looking for information on the products and services, corporate culture, company policies, company climate, employee retention, and of course potential opportunities.
  • If you are informational interviewing for an industry, you will ask broader questions and the session will be much more a brainstorming session. In some cases, I have been part of an informational interview for clients.
  • For example, recently I had a client who was seeking a management position in the hospitality industry. Both from my client base and from my connections with Wausau Whitewater, I know many people in hospitality industry.
  • I set up a meeting with one of my connections, a hospitality sales manager and a general manager, who was a former client for my client. The four of us met at one of the local properties over breakfast. We chatted over the hotel brunch about my client’s background, the industry, what is going on, who is moving, who has openings, and where the potential could be. There were several potential leads that were new to us. In addition, we now had two more people who knew my client and could be a future resource.

Everyone has a network but many people don’t work at developing them, nurturing them, or making them a resource. In today’s economy, understanding networks, informational interviewing, and how to tap into the hidden job market are part of getting in the door.

Let me know if you have used informational interviewing or if you have questions on how it works. In my interactive resume writing and job search strategies sessions, my clients learn how to win their next role. Learn more.

Getting in the door: Networking with Informational Interviewing


  1. Melissa on April 7, 2010 at 10:25 am

    What a great introduction to informational interviews!

    I like the point you made when you said, “Your goal is to gather information. You should always have your resume with you but it is not your goal to hand off your resume in the informational interview.”

    Sometimes, job seekers think that they should ask for a job in an informational interview. That would be like a salesperson asking a potential customer if they want to buy before making the sales pitch.

    • Julie Walraven on April 7, 2010 at 3:02 pm

      Exactly, Melissa! If someone asks you directly for your resume, of course you should give it to them but otherwise, you just need to use this time to learn.

  2. Jane C Woods on September 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Well, Julie, you teach me something new! I hadn’t thought about ‘informational interviewing’ in this way. I keep in touch informally (and pay for the coffee!) but this puts it on a whole new level. I’m glad I spotted this post. Thanks. Jane

    • Julie Walraven on September 5, 2010 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks, Jane. I’m realizing that some of the posts that I take for granted everyone read, need to recirculate. I am sure that is true with yours, too. Informational interviewing and networking is critical for everyone, job seekers, career changers, and business owners.

  3. Julie Walraven on October 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Explain to the individual that you had planned an informational interview and had a different focus in mind when you asked for her time.

    However, with every informational interview, you need to think that perhaps people will misunderstand your purpose or just be uninformed of what an informational interview is. So by planning for an informational interview to morph into a real interview, you can be more prepared.

    And this is also the time for a follow-up thank you | proposal letter to answer the questions you felt you didn’t address in the interview.

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Julie Walraven

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