Whether you are looking for a job, itching to make a career role change or exploring a new industry, informational interviews can be a key part of your research because they place you in the driver’s seat, expand your relationship circle, help build your confidence and sometimes may even lead to future job contacts or offers.

In some cases, the knowledge you gain through an informational interview may even alter your original career course, leading you in a different direction.

Don’t let the term interview mislead you. The goal of this kind of interview is to gather information, not to land a job immediately. Unlike in a typical interview, you take on the interviewer role by asking the questions and generally leading the pace.

The focus is on gaining information about a specific company, developing networking contacts and strengthening your relationship-building skills. You take responsibility for selecting and making the initial contact, doing research about the industry or company, arranging the interview, preparing questions and conducting the interview.

Aim to connect with someone in a specific organizational area or job role that interests you rather than targeting a CFO, owner or company human resources professional. Many people ask a close personal friend, peer or business partner to help connect them to someone in a particular company, field, industry or relevant networking group.

Ask questions to learn more about the highlights of working in the particular field, what are the typical tasks and responsibilities, what qualities or abilities are important to being successful, what areas are most challenging and what advice might be offered to someone entering the field.

Like a traditional interview, be sure to dress appropriately, be prompt, come prepared and follow up with a thank-you.

Aside from the wealth of knowledge you can gain about a particular company, use the informational interview as a time to become your own advocate. Consider the informational interview a learning experience and an opportunity to showcase your personal skills, knowledge and abilities. You want to make an excellent first impression so that the person you talk with may think of you if a position for which you’d be qualified becomes available.

And when you are in the position to do so, try to pay it forward to a friend in need in the future!

Lisa P. Cohn is an Account Representative for the JCS Career Center. JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors.

To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.