Contrasted to a job interview, a genuine informational interview is a meeting where the interviewer simply wants professional information from the subject (the person granting the interview): about the subject’s industry, career path, network, etc.
An informational interview can be especially helpful when the interviewer is moving to a new city or a new industry. In those cases, for example, the interviewer might ask, May I please have some of your time? I just need some basic information and insight, so I’d really appreciate an informational interview. I’m not going to ask you for a job."
Why not just ask for a job interview, one that appropriately ends with the interviewer pleading, "So can I have a job, huh, can I?" Because:
- The subject might not be a hiring manager.
- The subject might not want to have to help directly with a job search.
- The subject’s company might not have any open positions.
- The interviewer might truly not want to work with the subject’s company.
Sometimes (often, it seems), the job seeker will ask for an informational interview because the seeker really wants a job interview, but doesn’t want to be denied an interview. So the seeker asks for an informational interview. And then, awkwardly, shows up with only one question: "Uh, I don’t want a job, but if I did how would I get one here?"
In those cases, it’s like the fellow who wants a date so much that he is willing to forgo any opportunity for intimacy. "I just want to take you to dinner. No smooching. Just an informational interview."
We all know how that ends. Unrequited, unemployment.