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The Benefits of Informational Interviews for Recent and Soon-to-be College Grads

Recent college graduates, not all interviews for entry-level positions need to be fraught with anxiety. Informational interviews – conversations with professionals in the fields and functions in which you’re interested – can be valuable resources for college students and fresh grads starting down a professional career path. Here are some of the perks of seeking information, rather than immediate employment.

You can learn about a job’s pros and cons

By having conversations with professionals who do what you’re considering doing, you can learn about what the field is really like. You might hear stories about how your new connection studied English in college but became a director of software development at a large financial firm, or how your contact started with the company from its inception to see it grow to be a leader in the field. You may hear how the person failed many times only to move up the ranks to become a senior leader in a nationally recognized organization. Through these conversations, you may come to realize the job or industry in which you are interested is not as glamorous as you had imagined. Or, you might find out the job is a great first step and can open up other doors.

Be sure to ask questions like, “What do you like about your job?” and “What are some of the biggest challenges that you face in your role?” so you can delve into what keeps this person from leaving the job, company or industry. Odds are, the person with whom you’re speaking will give you candid answers so you can make educated decisions about your career.

You can ask those “tough” questions in informational interviews

During an informational interview, it’s okay to ask questions that might seem taboo or inappropriate for certain job interviews. Asking these questions during informational interviews will prepare you for topics that arise in the job interview.

For example, college students may not have insight into what typical entry-level salaries look like. Having conversations with hiring managers will often provide accurate information about money. When you are eventually offered a job, you will be knowledgeable about the salary you are being offered and can gauge whether it’s in line with current industry standards.

You can network and connect

Many people who get great jobs tend to do so by having the “right” connections. People who know people who know people get the jobs before they are posted online. By setting up informational interviews, not only will you learn about the job and industry, you will receive exposure and visibility to potential hiring managers.

You can sharpen your communication skills

Informational interviews give students opportunities to practice speaking about their backgrounds, interests, and goals. Many college students do not have a formal job interview until weeks before graduation. Informational interviews help you get comfortable earlier in the job search. Although there are several differences between job and informational interviews, the latter enables soon-to-be grads to explain why they are interested in a given area or industry, something that will come up in a formal job interview, too. Putting yourself in front of hiring managers for a colloquial discussion will be a positive way to rehearse, refine, and reenact your interview responses. Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer for tips, feedback and ideas for improving the way you present yourself.

We recommend doing as many informational interviews as early as possible in your collegiate tenure. You will gain insight and communication experience that will prove valuable in your job search arsenal later in the game.

Photo credit: JSB Group

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