An Informational Interview (also known as an Informational conversation) is a meeting in which a potential job seeker seeks advice on their career, the industry, and the corporate culture of a potential future workplace; while an employed professional learns about the job seeker and judges their professional potential and fit to the corporate culture, so building their candidate pool for future hires. 
In an informational interview, job seekers can be unemployed, or else employed and considering new options. They use the interview to gather information on the field and on specific companies where they might want to work. They can find employment leads, and expand their professional network. The employed professional from whom the potential candidate seeks advice and information also learns about a new potential colleague or hire and builds their own network through the conversation.
This differs from a job interview because the conversation is not about hiring and not about a specific job. The potential candidate asks general questions about the nature of the company or the industry, and the "insider" learns about the potential candidate's professional character at the same time. The information interview helps overcome a problem with most discussions in a recruiting/job-seeking process, where each side is hesitant to talk to the other because they are uncertain about whether they might be wasting their time with an unqualified candidate or unsuitable workplace. In contrast, "the informational interview provides an [sic] non-threatening forum" for discussion as the two sides learn about each other.
The term was coined by Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the best-selling career handbook What Color Is Your Parachute?. Whether or not a specific employment opportunity is available, professional etiquette is expected.
Informational interviews are initiated either by the job seeker  or by an employer looking to build a pool of strong candidates. There are many ways for them to find contacts for an informational interview. These include online services dedicated to this purpose, career and social networking, newspaper want ads, job boards, placement services, company websites, trade association and professional meetings, human resource contacts, professors and teachers, job search engines, and professional recruiters.
Etiquette for Informational Interviews Initiated by Job Seeker
When the job seeker initiates the interview, the professional being interviewed is doing a favor by providing information. It is important to be mindful of guidelines of informational interview etiquette, in addition to etiquette for traditional interviews. As for any interview, the potential candidate should learn in advance about the industry, the company and the individual. The time allowed is typically short, often only 15 minutes.
- Plus Relocation Services. "Informational Interview". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- Dawn Rosenberg McKay. "The Informational Interview: Getting the Inside Scoop on an Occupation". About.com. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- Richard Nelson Bolles (2013). What Color Is Your Parachute?: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. New York: Crown Publishing. ISBN 9781607743644.
- Kate Lorenz (August 21, 2008). "How Does an Informational Interview Work?". CareerBuilder.com. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
- Idaho State Council of SHRM. "Informational Interviewing". SHRM.org. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
- Marci Alboher (January 29, 2008). "Mastering the Informational Interview". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
- Alison Doyle. "Informational Interviews: What is an Informational Interview and How it Can Help Your Career". About.com. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
- "Informational Interviewing Tutorial: A Key Networking Tool for Students, Job-Seekers, and Career-Changers". QuintCareers.com. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
- Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Summer 2002 Informational interviewing: Get the inside scoop on careers by Olivia Crosby
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