How to Conduct an Exploratory Interview?

potential employee and her mentor standing in the office after successful exploratory interview

Exploratory interviews offer potential employees an opportunity to gain insight into a specific business, industry, occupational role, and employment options. These information-seeking sessions also provide occasions to practice interviewing techniques and become more acquainted with people in the professional domain.

What makes exploratory interviews special is that the job seeker often is the one asking most questions, instead of the company or recruiter.

This article will tell you exactly step-by-step how to conduct the optimal exploratory interview:

Step 1: Find a specific person to interview

Finding the right interviewee for an exploratory interview can be a challenge, but through careful research and preparation, it is possible to locate a potential asset.

The ideal candidate should have experience in a position of relevance to the one sought by the interviewer. Conducting online research is a good place to start, as well as getting referrals from friends or industry contacts. 

Begin looking at websites with the “About Us” or “Contact” pages to find out who works in positions related to your desired role. Also take a look at any company LinkedIn profiles – this provides a great way to find out who is connected and working in similar companies.

Reaching out directly to Human Resource departments can also prove beneficial when requesting names of people who may be suitable for an informational interview. 

When making contact with an individual, begin by constructing a brief and professional email message that can be considered in their own time. Ensure that thorough research about their company has been conducted prior so that specific questions are prepared in advance – such queries might involve details about recent initiatives or the person’s professional background.

It can also help if mutual connections make introductions with willing individuals – they may decide to take part in such interviews as they may have had the experience of similar ones themselves. 

Moreover, it should be assumed that interviewees have limited amounts of time available and remember to keep communication succinct as much as possible when reaching out to them.

All these steps taken together will create strong foundations upon doing an effective exploration job search – finding people you feel comfortable talking with and willing to offer assistance when learning more facts about your desired role within the industry while gaining additional insight into the career opportunities available.

Step 2: Reach out

The first step is to make a list of prospective organizations where you would like to work and research possible professional contacts who are just five or ten years further along in their careers. After narrowing down your list, compose an effective outreach message that provides you context on who you are and why you are reaching out to this particular person – it needs to communicate your polite sincerity if you wish them to take notice.

Request a meeting with them and provide your contact details as part of the message while suggesting a convenient timeframe that works best for both parties. It also pays off to send follow-up messages three days later if there’s still no response – do not bombard, however, as that may have a negative impact! 

Prior to connecting directly with the target individual/representative at said organization, don’t forget about social media – often times it can be immensely useful when navigating complex relations between two strangers.

By following those individuals who share relevant insight in your field(s) of interest, learning more about their experiences and work histories will give you ample opportunity for growth – even before making the request!

Potential employee with her interviewee after en exploratory interview.

Finally, after scheduling conversations via Zoom (or in-person whenever possible), aim at keeping developing an interactive environment throughout with direct verbal communication whilst expressing sincere gratitude afterward – feeling acknowledged goes a very long way towards building bridges rather than walls between people!

Step 3: Establish Your Goals

Exploratory interviews are a crucial part of any job-seeking process. They are your opportunity to build relationships, understand your own career aspirations, and gain insight into the career paths of those around you. Here are the key goals and steps to take when conducting an exploratory interview:

1. Understand Career Aspirations – You should inquire about the long-term goals of your interviewee in order to assess potential opportunities for progression within your field. Ask questions that uncover how they plan on advancing their career, and what steps they have taken thus far to do so. 

2. Investigate Networking Opportunities – Networking is integral when it comes to establishing meaningful professional contacts, so ask questions concerning what networking efforts have been undertaken by your interviewee and get them talking about their experiences.

3. Prepare a Meeting Agenda – Put together a clear agenda for each meeting in advance, including tailored questions that will allow you to get the most out of each interaction.     

4. Examine Job Satisfaction – Determine what elements of a given job someone enjoys and looks forward to doing on a day-to-day basis, as well as any areas that may be less enjoyable. This can help you figure out if certain positions or workplaces would be suitable matches for you too. 

5. Explore Career Path Trajectories – Inquire about where they see themselves going in terms of future roles within their chosen profession and whether those aspirations align with yours in any way.      

6. Articulate Why You’re Interested – Make sure that prior to beginning the interview you have rapidly explained why it is that you have requested it; having researched extensively ahead of time into all relevant aspects regarding both yourself and your intended discussion partner demonstrates that you’re committed and keenly interested in progressing professionally yourself.            

7. Discuss Internship Prospects – If any internships have already crossed your path or been recommended then ask specifically about those; enquire further about what personal attributes someone needs to possess before interning successfully along with any struggles which may be associated with such programs.          

8. Consider Alternative Routes – Don’t limit yourself during this conversation; seek advice concerning other professions or courses of action that could help you shed new light on prospective fields of work or research material which might also prove beneficial down the line.

Step 4: Prepare your questions

Preparing for an exploratory interview is essential if you want to get the most out of your conversation. Here are some steps you should take to be ready: 

  • Do research: Allocating some time for researching the company and industry you’ll be talking about can give you a more comprehensive understanding of their business. It can also demonstrate your interest and dedication to the interviewer. 
  • Formulate questions: Make a list of 5-10 meaningful inquiries so that you can peek into areas that cannot be found through online searches. Look at open-ended questions which will encourage deep conversations between both parties. 
  • Brush up on note-taking skills: Take notes during the discussion – it helps with listening, plus gives clarity when page-flipping back through conversations as reference points later on down the line. Have a notebook or device handy to jot things down quickly and effectively. 
  • Prepare follow-ups beforehand so that when something interesting piques your curiosity there won’t be confusion about what’s expected next. If applicable, sending off your questions prior to the meeting can give them an opportunity to ready themselves as well before getting into the nitty-gritty details come interview time.
  • Start with some friendly conversation and get to know each other better. This way the respondent will feel comfortable during the process. When the formal part begins, pose your inquiries compassionately but professionally; avoid taking shortcuts but instead ask precise questions that allow gaining insight in their sector, company culture or team/department environment.

By doing some research, formulating questions and getting ready to take great notes, preparing for an exploratory interview is made much easier!

Taking these steps ahead of time will give you confidence going into this next interaction, knowing that you’re armed with the knowledge of what matters most – whether it’s an introduction or diving deeper into potential career paths or industry trends!

Step 5: Showing interest in the position and the employer

An exploratory interview is a great opportunity for job seekers to prove their qualifications and expertise, as well as gain valuable insights into an employer’s expectations. To make the most of this experience, it’s important to put your best foot forward and demonstrate a genuine interest in the position and company.

Arrive prepared with questions written down to ensure you don’t forget anything important. Make sure you ask personalized questions related to the company, the hiring manager, and potential opportunities that may be available down the line. Additionally, provide some brief details about your current position or job title so they can get an idea of your level of experience in a relevant field.

Young brunette with a manager at a fashion office after an exploratory interview.

When presenting yourself during an exploratory interview, it’s important to articulate why you’re considering a career change and what experiences or skill sets make you uniquely qualified for this particular role.

Identify any challenges associated with the position that you feel comfortable taking on and emphasize any accomplishments that are directly related to it.

Most importantly though, take full advantage of this wonderful opportunity by listening intently and learning as much about their organization as possible.

Step 6: Do not give up control during the interview

The best way to retain control over the interview while conducting an exploratory interview is to be prepared. Before you meet with the person, create a list of relevant questions that have been tailored to your goals for the conversation.

Once you’ve begun your meeting, it should be clear that this is your party and you are expected to direct the conversation but also welcome any career advice that may come up during the introduction.

Don’t forget to do a quick time check throughout your discussion, being conscious always of how much time has passed so that you can respectfully wrap up when necessary.  

Additionally, keep in mind that this is somewhat like a job interview: dress appropriately, arrive on time and be polite. Remember also not to ask any overly personal questions such as income levels or anything else related to family life – these irrelevant topics might throw off their rhythm or distract them from answering important questions about the company itself.

Most importantly, be sure to thank them for their time once everything has concluded before leaving. By taking these steps beforehand and throughout the course of an exploratory interview, it’s possible to maintain control while staying on track toward achieving well-informed objectives.


Accurately gathering information from the target employer is an essential step in achieving success when searching for a job. An exploratory interview can be a great way to do this, with many potential benefits if done correctly.

Following the steps outlined in this article effectively will help you make the most of an exploratory interview and lay a strong foundation for getting called for formal interviews within that company in the future.

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