Get Ahead with an Informational Interview

An informational interview is a great way to build your network, find out more about an organization, hone your interviewing skills, and increase your chances of getting a job there. Surprisingly, few people take advantage of this powerful strategy.

Person in interview

First identify your target organization

This may be an organization you know you would really like to work for, or perhaps you are interested in the work of the organization, but would like to find out more about them.

Who should you try and meet with

Ideally, you will be able to get a name and introduction from people you already know, but it is more likely that you will have to contact someone without this advantage.

Who will have the most useful information? Who will have the time to meet with you? It’s unlikely that you will be able to meet with the director or top level staff, if the organization is big, although there is no harm in asking. If you cannot meet with your preferred person, ask them to suggest an alternative.


Research as much as you can about the organization and the person you are having an interview with.

Make sure you know why you want to speak to this person and have relevant questions for them: you asked for the interview; not them! It is probably a good idea to write down your questions so that you don’t forget any during the interview.

The interview

Don’t stay too long: try and arrange a length of meeting beforehand, or at least at the start of the interview, e.g. “how much time do you have?”

You should not ask directly for a job, but it is perfectly acceptable to express an interest in future openings.

Take notes.

Consider asking them who they recommend you talk to – this can give you another lead, and allows you to mention that you have “met with person X, and they recommended I contact you”. Your network will grow!

Follow up

Try and maintain this person as an active contact in your network. Perhaps there is something you can do or give back in a show of gratitude, e.g. a follow-up thank you letter or card. You may want to keep them informed about how your job-hunt is going or what you are doing in your career – thanks to them! However, be careful to not overstep the mark and waste their time. Remember the development world is small, so don’t antagonize anyone, as it could come back to haunt you if your paths cross again.

More details

If you would like to learn more about informational interviews from a general, rather than specifically a development perspective, try this comprehensive tutorial or this shorter guide.

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