I want to talk about three different kinds of interviews. Of course, there’s the job interview. There’s also a thing called informational interviews and a casual or informal interview. Let’s talk about the characteristics of each of these.
So in a job interview, we want to understand how people have behaved and performed in the past. Hopefully, this gives us an idea of how they would behave and perform in the future. We also need to understand how technically proficient they are. Of course the interview isn’t the only place where we’ll gauge this. We’ll look at their resume, their portfolio, projects they’ve uploaded and even talk to people that they’ve worked with. You might have or be on a panel interview. You might have an interview that’s over the phone or on video. The purpose of the job interview is to figure out if the person that you’re talking to is the right person for the role. Contrast that with an informational interview.
An informational interview is formal. When someone reaches out to you for an informational interview, they might say, “Can I get 20 minutes of your time? ” They’re not interviewing for a specific job but it’s still an interview. In this 20-minute session, they should try and learn about the company and the competitors, the industry and the opportunities and any roles that are available. This interview is really an opportunity for them to gather information. There should also be a heavy focus on networking. If they spend 20 minutes with you and have a good conversation, they might consider you to be a stronger networking contact. At the end of the informational interview, they should ask you for introductions to your contacts.
Note that if you’re in a hiring position, you’re probably not reaching out to others for informational interviews. They would be reaching out to you.
Another kind of interview is a casual or an informal interview. I’ve come to the belief that casual interviews are always happening. I’ve been in various social settings, and as I talk to people I realize that either I’m judging them and trying to figure out whether they would be a good fit for my organization or they’re judging me and what I’m telling them about my company to see if that’s an opportunity that they want to pursue. This is something that’s usually not planned. It’s very impromptu and it just kind of happens in the conversation. Because it’s impromptu, neither party has formal questions that they prepared.
They probably haven’t thought about it very much or recently, but there is an element of fishing for information. “Tell me about this? ” “How are things going in the company? ” “What are the new opportunities? ” “What about this news with your competitor? ” “How are you guys reacting to that? ” As we have these conversations, we’re really judging to see if there’s a right fit even if there isn’t an opportunity that’s posted or the other person supposedly isn’t looking for a new opportunity. The fact that most casual or informal interviews are impromptu means that they don’t necessarily follow the rules for an interview. Think of this as a professional conversation but realize that your answer could contribute to how they judge whether it’s a good fit for them or not. Let me suggest that casual doesn’t mean that this is a lazy conversation. You should still be respectful and guard confidentialities.