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Exploratory Interviews – Understand and Prepare

Exploratory interviews, or more commonly to as informational interviews, differ greatly from regular interviews in-that it is typically meant to assist the interviewee in understanding a certain career, company, industry, or profession.

Exploratory or informational interviews allow you to really understand the underlying’s of a company, industry, career, or profession.  It is an opportunity to challenge your preconceived notions and to ask the right questions to gain further information.

The main purpose, then, of an exploratory or informational interview is for the interviewee to assess whether a career in that industry is the right fit.  It allows a chance for the interviewee to gain insight on a company, industry, or career.

Interviewees should take the opportunity of an exploratory interview to their fullest advantage.  They should be prepared and ready with specific questions to get a better idea on the company and/or career.

How Do Exploratory Interviews Work?

Exploratory interviews are meant to give a prospective employee an opportunity to ask questions regarding a specific company, industry, profession, or career.  Asking these questions gives the potential employee a chance to explore the pros-and-cons of a certain career and make a more informed decision on their future career.

From the employer’s perspective, exploratory interviews give them a chance to understand a certain candidate and begin compiling information on prospective pools of talent.  They can also address any potential weak points in their company offerings and work to address and remedy those for future hires.

Are Exploratory Interviews Beneficial?

Resoundingly yes.  Exploratory interviews are greatly beneficial for both parties.  It offers insight into a company from an interviewees perspective and allows employers to see what potential employees care for and what skills they are bringing to the table.

More-so, exploratory interviews allow for a no-nonsense setting, where both parties can talk and speak honestly.  It allows a dedicated amount of time to understanding both sides and parties without the fear of scaring either party away.

How To Schedule An Exploratory Interview?

Setting up an exploratory interview is straightforward, but the result may not be so.  In-order to setup and schedule an exploratory interview, you should simply email a specific department head or the human resources department requesting one.

In your email request, you should state why you are looking to setup an exploratory interview and your eagerness to learn more about both the company and a particular career path or field.

Exploratory interviews can be setup and scheduled by either the employer or the potential employee.  Employer’s may set these interviews so that they can have a qualified pool of potential candidates they can call upon if needed for future openings.

Acing The Exploratory Interview

Once you’ve landed and scheduled the exploratory interview, you should come prepared and presentable.  Though not all exploratory interviews have positions lined up to fill, by expressing direct interest before a position opens, you set yourself up to be the first call for a formal interview in the future.

The most important thing to bring is a list of direct and ready to go questions.  You will also want to have done your homework on the company so you can ask questions regarding the company and its future.

Some potential questions you can ask at an exploratory interview are:

  • What is the career progression for someone in your field?
  • What technical and non-technical skills are beneficial in your career?
  • What does it take to be successful in your position?
  • How did you get your position?
  • Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into a similar career?
  • Would any additional certifications be worthwhile before getting into this industry?
  • What is the work culture of this company, versus other companies you may have been employed at?
  • If you could change one thing in the company or in the industry, what would it be?
  • Do you feel like you are enacting change or have an influencing affect with what you do?
  • What fears do you have about the industry in the next 5, 10, 15 years?

When attending the exploratory interview, you will also want to make sure you are as presentable and as professional as possible.  This includes completing the following:

  • Dress professionally and in business formal clothing
  • Be at least 15 minutes early
  • Bring extra copies of your resume, printed on resume paper
  • Be prepared to answer honestly about yourself and your goals

You can also read our full post on how to prepare for an interview here.

Email After An Exploratory Interview

Anyone, regardless of position, company, wealth, or status should be thanked after taking time from their day to meet with you.  This is especially true when meeting with interviewers after an exploratory interview.  You should send an email after an exploratory interview, thanking the interviewer’s for their time and their patience in meeting with you.

We discuss exploratory interviews here and go in-depth on their importance.

If you feel the interview went well, you will want to keep in regular contact and continue to foster and grow that relationship.

While a position may not yet be open or available, companies are constantly expanding, reorganizing, and pivoting as needed.  If a position does open or become available, you will want the interviewer to think of you first and to reach out to you to apply.

The absolute best way to top off a great exploratory interview is to send a follow-up thank you email.  This email should be sent within 24-hours to the interviewer(s).  If you were interviewed by multiple people, you will want to send out individual emails to each, taking a moment to thank them personally for their insight, advice, and time.

You can use the following template when reaching out to your interviewer(s).  Just be sure to customize and correct between the parenthesis as needed.

Subject:  Thank You – Exploratory Interview

Email Body:

Dear Mr./Ms. (Interviewer’s full name),

I truly appreciate your taking the time out of your busy day to meet with me for the exploratory interview.  I am grateful for the insight, advice, and recommendations you provided regarding both (Company) and the career trajectory of someone in the (career field) industry.

It was truly enlightening to see the perspective from someone with (# of) years of experience in the field and I am truly more inspired because of-it.

Please, do not hesitate to let me know if there are any questions you may have.  I would love to connect on LinkedIn and look forward to future correspondences.

Thank you,

(Your full name)

Conclusion

Exploratory interviews are meant to give both employers and potential employees access to future opportunities.  They are meant to act as a bridge to future, more formal, interview processes.

Many employers are keen and open to the idea of conducting exploratory interviews, but you may need to put in the initial legwork to get the ball rolling.

Once you have an exploratory interview scheduled, you can utilize the time to gain insight and understanding into the company and how it functions.  You’ll also want to ask direct, specific questions to the interviewer regarding their career and the future of that career.

Always be professional and arrive early.  After your interview, be sure to send than you emails and show your appreciation for their time and advice.

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