In some circumstances, job applicants get to turn the tables on employers. During exploratory interviews job seekers typically meet with employers to learn about a company or career. During such encounters those considering an industry or particular role get to ask most of the questions, providing them with valuable information.

Through this process, the prospective employee is able to gain a strong impression of an industry’s culture, an individual company’s work environment and a specific position’s responsibilities. Exploratory interviews are of particular importance to workers new to the professional world and those changing careers.

Employers Benefit, Too

Exploratory interviews are often more openly conversational than structured. Employers can walk away with useful information about what the field of possible candidates for a position expects on issues ranging from compensation to work conditions and company culture. And even if companies are not trying to fill a position at the time of the interview, they gain a pool of pre-screened candidates for when the time comes.

Short, Casual & Zoom

Exploratory interviews are intended to be casual in tone and loose in structure. As they are not part of an official hiring process, the interviews can be short, 20 or 30-minute conversations, and are often over a digital interface such as Zoom.

Despite Informality, Prep is Important

Casual convenience is key, but so is preparation. Although the talk is not intended to result in a job offer, it pays for the candidate to have a list of targeted questions to keep the conversation going and ensure that the most is made of access to employer information. Being prepared also shows a certain level of respect and appreciation for the employer’s time and energy, and will undoubtedly make a much better first impression.

An Easy Source of Network Contacts

Often those new to the professional world, or a particular corner of it, lack professional contacts. Informational interviews can be an excellent way for a job hunter to fill out a contacts list. In some cases, a single interview will generate multiple industry contacts. In all cases, ambitious job seekers who take the time to learn about an industry with no job offer hanging in the balance make a good impression on the person being interviewed and by extension their contacts.

Typical Candidate Questions

Naturally, questions will often be specific to the industry or employer. That is the point of the interview. However, certain questions and types of general questions are important to consider, including the following:

  • Questions about career paths
  • Inquiries about timelines and how long it takes to advance
  • What skills are needed for the position
  • Where the interviewee sees the industry’s future headed
  • How did the interviewee get their position

Exploring Further

There are number of different types of preliminary interviews that might be classified as “exploratory” or “informational.” In some cases short, often remote, interviews are used to screen for qualified applicants and verify credentials. Other pre-interviews might allow job seekers and employers to explore the fit between candidates and companies.

In other cases, group meetings bring similar professionals together in a networking environment. Still other interviews allow employers to assess candidates’ personalities and interests.

While the interviews are informal, professionalism is important. Both parties should conduct themselves in a serious and professional manner, despite the setting, to make the most of time spent.

When done well, exploratory interviews can be a benefit to both candidate and employer.