The Informational Interview

If you’ve read other of my articles and my web material, you’ll know that applying for and being offered an interview for posted job openings is an unlikely event for practicing physicians searching for nonclinical career options.  What is not only possible but also highly likely and highly valuable are informational interviews.  And, just what is an informational interview you ask? Just Google “informational interview” and you’ll receive a plethora of references ranging from articles in Forbes, from Monster, US News and others. It is a common business practice and, if you perform that Google search, you’ll see it is most commonly linked to or cross-referenced to networking.

While the informational interview is not directly considered an interview for an actual job, it can certainly turn into or lead to one. So, what is it and how do you get one?

It is a networking meeting with key individuals you target but for a defined purpose of vetting your credentials, learning about your desired or target career path and developing a better understand of industry issues, drivers, challenges and opportunities.

The following steps or criteria will help you get the interview you want. The key criteria are:

    • Identify individuals in companies or the type of company you wish to work
    • Identify individuals in the jobs you want
    • Identify individuals to whom you would like to report
    • Identify individuals doing the type of work you wish to do. Note, these people may not hold the job you wish, but they are performing some of all the tasks you would like to do.
    • Preferably, identify people you can visit face to face.
    • Next, be clear you are not asking them for work or a job, but rather an informational interview.  The closing paragraph for email and letters I always use is this:
      • “However, in choosing to move from clinical practice, I realize I need to meet leaders in those businesses and organizations to learn more about their needs and to ask them to review my credentials. That’s my reason for contacting you. Let me be very clear, I’m not asking you for a job, but rather for an informational interview to help me better assess my credentials and to learn more about the needs of various industries. I’m asking you specifically, because I recognize you as a knowledgeable and respected business leader. I’m asking for only 20-30 minutes of your time. I’ll call your office next   (specify and time and day/date)   to see if we may schedule a meeting.”

When you’re actually in the interview, follow this pattern:

  • Use your stump speech: present who you are, what you done and what you want to do, then, in the context of “what you want to do,” ask the interviewer about what he/she does. This becomes the meat of the meeting. Your objective is to lean as much as you can about not just what they do, but more importantly, about what they see as challenges, as opportunities, as problems, difficult questions, etc… You are looking for your opportunity to be their problem solver or a problem solver to the industry. Just absorb and ask more questions. It’s ok to say that the areas discussed are of interest to you and that you believe you could make positive contributions, but don’t turn the conversation into a request for a job. As a very wise friend of mine once said, you’ll never listen yourself out of a job.
  • Lastly, ask this person whom else they believe you should speak with, who could provide further answers to your questions. Your objective should be to use this as a networking opportunity and networking is about building a network. My goal is to always receive three referrals.

The Informational Interview works great on it’s own. However, it can be modified in various ways to yield even greater results. One such way is the research interview.  Look for the Research Interview in an upcoming article.