The job-search checklist is seemingly ever-growing: Perfect your resume, update your LinkedIn profile, write cover letters, research each company individually — need we include more? Amid all these actual requirements, the more non-essential informational interview is likely to plummet on your list of priorities. But Hamna Amjad, a community manager at GigWorker — a website that shares news about the gig economy (side hustlers, you know what that is) — explains to us why this type of meeting is totally worth your time.

informational interview

Seriously, pull yourself away from your applications — informational interviews, what Amjad calls “practice sessions before an actual interview,” are an unmatched sneak peek into the position or industry you’re seeking. “The information which you can get from people actually working in the industry is a lot more helpful and valuable than what you can find anywhere online,” she says.

You not only can learn more about jobs and companies from these experiences, but you can also discover specifics about the field as a whole or career paths you didn’t even know existed. And if nothing else, these meetings assist you in meeting new people, building relationships, and expanding your network. According to Amjad, “No one should ever underestimate the power of an informational interview.”

Who to Interview

The concept makes complete sense, but without a contact, informational interviews are quite literally impossible. A good place to start? Social media. Check LinkedIn to see if you know anyone who works for the companies in which you’re interested. If that’s fruitless, look at employees’ profiles for some common ground, whether that’s an alma mater, volunteer organizations, clubs, professional fraternities or sororities, etc.

If you can’t find any commonalities, don’t fret. Ultimately, all that matters is that you reach out in a professional manner to someone at a more senior level (ideally via email so as to avoid putting them on the spot). “You should have informational interviews with people who are working in your career field,” Amjad says. “Reach out to people who can be your potential bosses or know other people who can hire you… rather than approaching the employees at the same level as you.”

What to Ask/Say

This might not be a formal interview, but you still have to do some of the groundwork required of one, e.g. prepare an elevator pitch for yourself, research the company and industry, and brainstorm questions.

Amjad recommends asking about the other person’s work experience, the skills required for the job you’re seeking, characteristics the company looks for in new hires, company culture, and general tips. Even tap into the person’s connections by asking for the names of two or three more people who would also be good to talk to, she comments.

The ultimate goal: “You want to learn those things from this person that would be difficult for you to learn on your own,” Amjad says.

How to Act

As a young professional, play the part. Unsurprisingly, regardless of the venue, you’ll want to arrive to the meeting early, dress in appropriate business attire, ask clear questions (and take notes on their answers!), and maintain good eye contact throughout.

“Don’t be pushy, but let the interviewer know about your interests in a concise manner,” Amjad explains. “That way, the interviewer can help you further if they want to. For instance, connecting you with the right people without even asking them to do so.”

RELATED: 10 Smart Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview

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