What is an Exploratory Interview?

Business mentor with potential male employee

What is an exploratory interview?

Exploratory interviews (sometimes called informational interviews) are an important step in the job application process, offering potential employees and employers a glimpse into the possibilities of future collaborations.

Through exploratory interviews, employers can get to know a candidate’s skills and experiences, while candidates can learn more about the company, industry, profession or career they are considering joining. 

Exploratory interviews differ from formal job interviews as their primary goal is for both parties to explore each other’s potential benefits and gain insight before moving onto more official conversations.

By engaging in such meetings, employers can create a pool of possible candidates from which to choose from when roles open up, while job seekers can research their opportunities and make sure that their particular role is in line with their skillset and personality traits. 

During an exploratory interview recruiters typically ask open-ended questions related to the company’s industry, culture or general aspirations. At the same time they give applicants the opportunity to inquire about any aspects within the scope of knowledge on offer. This exchange helps participants gauge whether there is mutual compatibility which will ultimately result in a better long-term work environment. 

Furthermore, the experience gained through conducting exploratory interviews serves as valuable practice for upcoming job applications; enabling applicants to strengthen their interviewing skills and put forth tangible ways that they could contribute to prospective companies should they be accepted onto a role. 

Ultimately an exploratory interview acts as bridge between distinct professional worlds where both participants can mutually explore one another’s possibilities – providing useful insight for both sides before further commitment moves ahead.

What are the advantages of an exploratory interview?

Exploratory interviews are a win-win situation for both employers and potential employees, with numerous advantages. They provide the opportunity to have honest conversations that would otherwise be difficult in more formal settings, giving job seekers the chance to get a feel for the company without having to commit, and employers the chance to gain insight into a candidate’s professional capabilities and strengths. 

 For job seekers, exploratory interviews offer an invaluable chance to expand their professional contact network and obtain further information about their desired job profile, industry or company. Furthermore, they provide an opportunity to ask questions so that both parties can learn more from one another in an environment that is less intimidating. 

 Employers also stand to gain from exploratory interviews as they enable judicious screening of potential candidates for future job requirements, allowing them to increase their candidate pool and make better informed decisions about who should be hired. As such, exploratory interviews allow employers to evaluate which candidate is the right fit for the company in terms of skillsets and attitude. 

 In conclusion, exploratory interviews offer several mutually beneficial benefits – they protect both parties from making any irrevocable decisions while allowing them an opportunity to assess each other realistically.

What are the types of exploratory interviews?

1. Career-oriented interviews

Career-oriented interviews are conversations between job seekers and professionals that provide potent evaluation of potential job roles, businesses, and industries.

Job seekers can get meaningful advice from those who have firsthand experience in their desired field, better understand the future potential of their chosen career path, and build advocates to support them through the job search process.

Through such conversations, candidates become more informed about the position for which they are applying as well as empowered to make wise decisions about where they pursue their career.

2. Informational interviews

An informational interview is a great way to gain insight and insider knowledge into a career that you’re interested in. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the industry, position and company, hear tips for crafting applications, discover what employers are looking for in job applicants, and build connections.

An informational interview should not be confused with a job interview—the purpose is to gain valuable information about the field rather than to get a job offer.

By engaging in an informational interview, you have the chance to learn from someone who is already in the desired field of work. You can ask questions about their experiences and lessons learned, seek advice on how to succeed in this industry or role, or identify what unexpected opportunities may arise from talking with them.

Business mentor with job seeking young female.

The knowledge you acquire can shape your vision for your career going forward, as well as provide useful guidance on what skills and qualities potential employers are looking for.

An informational interview is also an invaluable tool for expanding your professional network. The person you’re interviewing may know of open positions within their company or even recommend other people who might be able to help you reach your goals. In either case, it’s worth taking advantage of the situation—you never know where building relationships may take you!

3. Networking meetings

Networking meetings are a fantastic opportunity to make powerful connections and gain insightful career guidance. During the meeting, job seekers have the chance to have informal conversations with established individuals in their desired field.

The primary aim of these conversations is to share information and get to know each other, rather than having a job interview-style discussion. Before the meeting, it is important to set an agenda so that both peoples’ time can be used productively.

Additionally, prepare targeted questions that encompass your exact goals and express respect for the contact’s time. Participants should also be open and candid about their professional ambitions in order for everyone involved to benefit from the conversation.

Afterward, sending a thank you note is paramount – being helpful by offering referrals or introducing contacts can further strengthen one’s professional network and establish trust.

4. Preliminary interviews

Preliminary interviews offer a formative and beneficial encounter between employers and job seekers. They provide an avenue for the employer to learn more about the applicant’s qualifications, interests and capabilities. The interview presents both the potential employer and applicant with a chance to further explore potential openings.

Usually, employers enquire on a job seeker’s abilities and interests; on the other hand, job seekers have room to ask for clarification about the company. By participating in a preliminary interview, each party can decide if there is a potential connection between them suited to meeting their mutual needs. 

The dialogue strives to identify connection points that might bring together an employer looking for accomplished personnel and an individual eager to find suitable employment. An effective preliminary interview thus enables the parties to take stock of opportunities while accurately assessing their compatibility. It also encourages deeper conversations that help ascertain if both sides’ objectives can be attained should they work together going forward.

5. Job candidacy interviews

There are typically four different types of job candidacy interviews that one can go through. These include exploratory, phone screening, reference check, and offer interviews.

Exploratory interviews provide a valuable opportunity to expand one’s existing professional network and receive referrals from individuals in the same industry. This type of interview is also used for assessing someone’s skills, interests, and personality.

Phone screening is an important step where recruiters listen to a candidate’s answers to questions about their career aspirations. This helps them decide which applicants should move on to subsequent stages of the hiring process.

Reference checks involve verifying an individual’s past performance by contacting previous employers. It therefore serves as an indicator for future success when employed at another company.

Finally, offer interviews make up the last step in the recruitment process where organizations present job offers that candidates then get to negotiate further details regarding compensation packages and other contractual agreements they would be making if hired.

6. Job seeker-led interviews

A job seeker-led interview is a type of exploratory interview, also known as an informational interview, which assesses the suitability of a potential employee for a particular job.

In contrast to conventional recruitment processes which are focused on finding the most suitable candidate for the job, job seeker-led interviews emphasize the interests and capabilities of applicants, as well as their aptitude for network building and interactions.  

Characteristics of this type of job search include examining career paths and ambitions, growing one’s contact list through networking, taking advantage of opportunities from the “hidden job market” which consists of openings not openly advertised but filled through personal contacts. 

Recruiters assess technical ability, communication skills and problem-solving capacity with regard to the position during this type of process – resume reviews, reference checks may also be performed before making a hiring decision.

7. Company interviews

The interviewing process can be divided into three distinct categories: informational interviews, screening interviews and job interviews. 

Informational interviews are an excellent way for potential employees to learn more about a company’s culture and the various roles on offer. It also provides them with valuable access to contacts within the business who can provide key insights into the job prospects available at the organisation.

Screening interviews, which are typically conducted by phone or video, help employers ascertain whether a candidate is suitable for a position. These conversations focus on assessing employment history, core competencies and skillset to decide if the individual is equipped to properly perform in the role. 

The final phase of recruitment involves comprehensive job interviews, which generally consist of a series of questions intended to test an applicant’s qualifications and experiences related to the job they are applying for.

Usually conducted in formal forums like conference rooms or offices, these meetings are designed to present a clearer overall picture of whether an individual is ready for employment.

8. Career consultation meetings

Career consultation meetings, commonly referred to as informational interviews or career conversations, are an excellent opportunity to gain a better understanding of a specific job, industry, or company.

These meetings allow you to ask questions and amass the knowledge essential for taking advantage of any job opportunity that may arise. Here are some tips for engaging in a successful career consultation meeting: 

  • Be sure to start with some small talk – this isn’t an investigative interview, but rather about forming genuine connections. 
  • Focus on asking open-ended questions – this will draw out more interesting and meaningful answers.
  • Enquire regarding their own career journey – ask them how they got where they are today, and which skills were most important in achieving their success.
  •  Discover who else may provide insight – find out who else might be able to offer you additional perspective about the company or industry. 
  •  Aim to cultivate familiarity and understanding – attempt to get an inside view of the company or job function that you’re interested in. 

By using these tips during your career consultations meetings, you’ll be sure to have the best chance at finding success!

9. Group interviews

Group interviews are an integral part of the recruitment process, assessing both the individual and group-level interpersonal skills of applicants, as well as their decision-making and problem-solving capabilities. The interviewer will observe how each applicant works in a team with others, offering insight into their confidence, communication skills, leadership skills and ability to handle pressure.

 To properly prepare for this type of interview format, applicants should familiarize themselves with the process and be prepared to answer questions as both an individual and as part of a team. Additional tasks may also be provided by the interviewer during the session for further assessing relevant qualities. 

 By understanding what is expected from them in this type of environment, applicants can ensure they maximize their chances of success in securing their desired role.

10. Job interview referral system

The job interview referral system is a process widely used by those seeking employment to identify and apply for opportunities in what is known as the “hidden job market.” This process begins after one or more exploratory interviews, during which the jobseeker has gained a better understanding of the role and whether it’s an ideal fit in terms of interests, skills, and character traits.

Through referrals from within and outside their professional network, they can gain access to these “hidden” jobs not always advertised. They may also receive additional referrals to others in their chosen field who could provide further insight into these roles. The recruitment process is typically finalised with external references and employers initiating a proposal before compensations are discussed and negotiated. 

Therefore, for passive jobseekers, it’s beneficial to discuss their interests, abilities, aspirations with their contacts to increase visibility and access such job opportunities. The Job Interview Referral System proves advantageous when done correctly!


Exploratory interviews are the first step in establishing a connection between an employer and a potential employee. They provide a great chance for job seekers to showcase their talents, show their interest in a particular profession, industry, or company, and gain insight into what the hiring process looks like.

For employers, these conversations help them learn more about the candidate and assess their skills and experience. Exploratory interviews are also used by recruiters to discover new and proactive applicants who have the right attitude that would fit with their workplace culture. 

Even though exploratory interviews will not typically result in an immediate job offer, they can be used as a gateway to future interview processes — giving applicants the ability to demonstrate their potential and leave a lasting impression on employers.

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