Informational interviews can help you to learn more about the pharma industry as well as the companies that work within it and the diverse range of roles it has to offer. These types of interviews can be set up with professionals with experience in the industry to gain a more realistic insight of what a career in pharma could look like, as well as advice on how to make your applications shine.
Although the primary goal of an informational interview is to gain more in-depth knowledge about the industry through first-hand accounts, they’re also a great way to get your name out there and to develop your job interview skills. In this article, we outline some of the key steps to follow when setting up informational interviews to help you get the most out of them…
Identify Your Main Goals
Before you begin reaching out to your contacts, make sure you know exactly what it is you hope to gain from your interviews. The people you talk to might not always have lots of time in their schedule for you, so going into each one with a specific goal will help you get the information you need the most.
Your main goal shouldn’t be to land a job, as informational interviews are vastly different from job interviews, and the people you speak to won’t always be in a position to offer you something other than advice. Here are some examples of what your goals could look like:
- Find out more about the key responsibilities of a Regulatory Affairs Officer
- Understand how to write a strong cover letter for a Clinical Research Associate role
- Learn what the company culture at X company is really like
Having more focused goals in mind when you do your interviews will help when it comes to directing the conversation and planning what questions you should ask.
Do Plenty of Research
Before reaching out to anyone, make sure you have a good understanding of the types of roles you’re interested in learning more about, the types of companies you’d like to work for, and what’s currently changing in the industry. Demonstrating that you’ve done your research in your interview will give you more credibility and will show that you’re serious about a career in pharma.
Reach Out to Existing Contacts
Once you’ve identified a goal, go through your existing contacts on places like LinkedIn and make a list of the people you think would be interesting to talk to. Your connections should already share common ground with you, and this will make it easier to reach out for an interview.
When reaching out, make it clear that you’re looking for advice/information from them and not a job. You should also let them know why you’re reaching out to them specifically, and that you’ll be talking to multiple people in the industry too in case they have any contacts they can recommend reaching out to.
Make sure you prepare some questions to ask each person you interview. Use these to direct the conversation towards helping you achieve your goals. Here are some examples:
- Industry: What kinds of challenges do you think the pharma industry is currently facing? What kinds of people do you think do well in this industry? What are your thoughts on X development? What made you want to get into this industry? Is there anything you wished you knew about this industry before you joined? How do you stay up-to-date with industry news and developments?
- Company: Could you describe the company culture at your company? What do you and your colleagues have in common? What made you want to work at this company? How much responsibility are you given over your work? How is success celebrated in the company? What does this company do that others don’t?
- Role: What do you think are the main traits a person needs to be successful in this role? How did you get into this role? What are the most rewarding parts of your work? What are the most challenging parts of your work? Are there any responsibilities that you have now that you didn’t expect when you started? What would be your main advice for someone looking to do this role?
Try to make the questions as open-ended as possible to really get the most out of the other person, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the parts of their job that aren’t so great. Remember your aim is to understand the reality of the job, and to do that you’ll need to hear both sides of the story.
Introduce Yourself – But Keep it Brief
You want to learn as much about the other person as possible, so don’t talk too much about yourself. Prepare a brief overview of your background, career goals, and what you hope to gain from your interviews, and then begin to direct the interview towards the other person.
Ask About Your Weaknesses
Don’t waste time explaining everything you’re amazing at, and instead use this as an opportunity to find out how you can improve. Ask what you could do to impress a hiring manager, or how you can bridge the gaps in your experience. Take note of the other person’s recommendations to show that you take their advice seriously.
Send a Thank-You Note
Send a thank you note or email to the person within 1-2 days, and let them know what you found particularly helpful, or even outline what steps you’re going to make to act on their advice. This will prove that you value their advice, and that you’re willing to take a proactive approach to your career development.
Don’t view your informational interviews as one-off interactions, and instead use them as opportunities to network and build long-term professional relationships. You can keep in touch with the people you interview by doing the following:
- Engage with their posts on LinkedIn
- Forward them an article or event that you think they’d be interested in
- If you read a book, took a course, or reached out to another contact they recommended, update them on your progress and let them know how their advice is helping you
Make an Action Plan
After each interview, write down what you talked about, and what you found particularly useful. This could be anything from learning about a great online resource for people wanting to make a career change in the pharma industry to identifying potential weaknesses in your applications that you didn’t know you had. Use these to make an action plan for things to follow up on.
Informational interviews are a really proactive way of developing your career in pharma and finding out more about all the different career paths the industry offers. They’re a great way of finding out more about the realities of working at a particular company or in a specific role and of putting your name out there with other experienced professionals.
Visit PharmiWeb.Jobs for more careers advice or to start searching for your next pharma job.