How to Succeed in an Informational Interview
By: Sabriyah Arain
When preparing for an informational interview, it is important to realize that you are not speaking to a company representative to ask for a job. Instead, your goal should be to form a relationship with whomever you spoke with.
I learned about informational interviews when I was preparing for one last fall. I was interested in a store operations internship with Uniqlo, a Japanese fashion retailer. The selection process consisted of three rounds of virtual interviews. Each new round involved speaking to a representative of higher status than the last.
Step 1: Conducting Company Research
To begin, I conducted online research about Uniqlo to learn more about the company and what they stand for. I first looked on their website for a general overview about products the company sold. I then dug deeper into their website to find information about their mission statement, corporate social responsibility efforts, and types of employment opportunities. In addition, I looked at recent articles about the company to find out about current events going on with the brand. I made sure to take notes on information that seemed interesting or stood out to me. I also compiled a list of questions to ask that related to my personal interests and the intern position I was applying for.
Step 2: Conducting Recruiter Research
Next, I performed a general Google search on the names of the Uniqlo representatives I would be meeting. I also looked them up on LinkedIn. I wanted to make sure I had some background information on who exactly I would be speaking to. This way, I could come up with interesting questions to ask them pertaining to their position, which would help me form better relationships with them. By conducting this preliminary research, I was able to find out that I would be speaking to HR representatives in the first two interview rounds, and a store manager in my last round.
Step 3: Learning Proper Video Etiquette
My final step of preparation involved learning about proper video etiquette. I had never interviewed through a video call before, and I wanted to make sure I presented myself in the correct way. This is especially important during these times, when it is likely that most interviews will be conducted via Zoom or another video software. First, I found a quiet spot in my house with an uncluttered background and good lighting. Then, I made sure the outfit I planned to wear showed up well and looked professional on screen. Even though the interviewer would only be able to see my shirt, I still planned to wear professional pants and shoes so that I would have a more serious mindset when being spoken to.
Step 4: Practicing for the Interview
Lastly, I practiced my elevator pitch and any questions I would be asking. I wrote down notes on a piece of paper to keep next to me during the interview to make sure that I did not forget to mention anything.
After spending a few days preparing, it was time for my first interview. As I mentioned before, my first round was with an HR representative from Uniqlo. The interview went very smoothly, and I was able to ask questions that pertained to the interviewer’s position as well as the position I was applying for. We were able to talk about things other than the internship itself, which helped me become a more memorable candidate. Throughout the interview, I made sure to be myself and not speak extremely formally. This more conversational tone allowed both the interviewer and I to get to know each other while also seeing if I was a good fit for the internship program. In the end, the HR representative stated that I would be moving onto the next round of interviews the following week.
My second round of interviews went smoothly as well. I met with another HR representative and followed the same method I had used for the first round. I made sure to ask different questions about the company and the interviewer’s position than I had the first time. We had a good conversation and even brought up some points that I had talked about with the previous interviewer. At the end, I was told I would be moving onto the final round of interviews, and that it would take place the very next day. I was definitely stressed out that I had little time to prepare, but I knew that if I had gotten this far, I had no choice but to follow all the way through.
Before the last round, I did some more research about Uniqlo to come up with new questions. I also came up with some new questions to ask the interviewer about her position as a store manager. When I met her during the interview, I once again had easy conversation with her and made sure to ask important questions. I was told that I would find out whether or not I earned the internship position within the week.
After about three days, the two HR representatives I had interviewed with asked me to call them. I was then offered the position and immediately accepted it. I was very thankful that my hard work paid off. The internship ended up being an amazing experience for me.
It is clear that this internship did not just fall in my lap. I had to work very hard and conduct large amounts of research in order to leave a good impression. It is also important to mention that I sent a thank you email to each individual that had interviewed me. By following these procedures, I was able to form strong connections with each of the Uniqlo representatives, which helped me stand out from others. Informational interviews are definitely not your usual interviews where you recite facts about the company and position. Instead, these interviews require you to think about how your past experience can help you succeed in the position you are applying for, and how you yourself can become memorable. You need to always ask good questions and be genuinely interested in what the recruiter has to say. These tips will help you land that internship or job you have always wanted.
If you have any questions or would like additional information about informational internships, please feel free to schedule an appointment with the Graham Office!