In an episode I welcome Tim Tortora, a veteran in Hollywood, and during our conversation he mentioned informative interviews.
What is an informative interview, why is it important, and why should an entrepreneur care?
An informational interview is an informal conversation entrepreneurs can have with someone working in an area of interest to the entrepreneur. It is an effective research tool and is best done after preliminary online research. It is not a job interview, and the objective is not to find job openings.
Informative interviews allow an individual to explore a role much deeper. Think of a dream job - most likely someone already has it, and that is ok.
The goal is not to take over that individuals job right now and push them to the curb. In fact, the way entrepreneurs structure questions is also important - more on that later.
One major goal of an informative is to understand how the current individual got to that specific role. However, it is important to reach out to professionals in that line of work - there may not be too much value in asking a financial accountant how to get a job as a graphic designer for example.
Asking professionals in the appropriate arenas is just as important as the question structure during the informative interview.
When I wanted to build my profession in healthcare, I had an informative interview with one of my mentors at the time. I asked about what routes this individual took in their professional development to get to the level they had risen to.
We discussed what track I was on professionally as well. I understood the importance of an informative interview and leveraging its benefits. I took that information and focused on building in areas we discussed needed attention: experience in the field, knowledge in this area, etc.
That informative interview eventually turned into a job opportunity, and that is why informative interviews are important.
I start out an informative interview stating my purpose, “I am here to discuss this role as I am interested in doing this in my career” - again, the relationship between the two roles must be as relevant as the individual entrepreneur you are talking to.
If entrepreneur walks into a CEO’s office and says, “I want your job”, they are going to laugh at that entrepreneur. Nobody flies up the ranks without digging a few trenches first.
Common questions to ask during an informative interview after entrepreneurs have stated their purpose and relevance:
Tell me about the career path?
What kind of training/education did they need?
Ask to be referred to another professional. This can be done by email - either a behalf of or simply a professional request with a note linking back as to how and why the entrepreneur is reaching out.
If the informative interview with an employee in an organization of interest, ask about the culture, work-life balance - ask questions that are relevant to the role and important to entrepreneur. This can be done virtually or in-person, perhaps over coffee.
When constructing an email make sure it is professional, include the company name, your name, title - there are plenty of examples of business professional emails online. Google business email templates if you need some help.
Personally, I believe in-person is always best, but above all else be courteous and appreciative. These individuals are taking time out of their day to help lend their knowledge and expertise, and that is why the entrepreneur should care.
Informative interviews are really an opportunity to pick the brain of someone more experienced than the entrepreneur. These individuals do not have to agree to meet with anyone; however, when they do, listen closely. This is free education and shared knowledge. Leverage their network as well as your own.
After all, informative interviews are just one way to network, in a network of entrepreneurs.
A globe of entrepreneurs.