Value of an Informational Interview

Informational interviews are your chance to speak with people who are currently working in your field of interest. Informational interviews are designed to help you gather information about a particular occupation or career, not obtain a job. It is an interview that you initiate and lead. You ask the questions.

Benefits of an informational interview:

  • Explore careers and clarify your career goals
  • Obtain information about your career field and the skills needed to do that job effectively
  • Discover future internship or employment opportunities
  • Broaden your professional network
  • Build confidence as you choose a career path

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Identify People to Interview

You may not know someone in the specific career field that interests you. That is ok! You probably know someone who knows someone who knows someone in that field. Think Six Degrees of Separation. Ask yourself, "Who do I know who might know someone else who knows about this field?"  Once you find someone who knows someone, ask that person to introduce you. If that meeting goes well, does this person know someone else?  And so on.  This is a great way to build your network.  

People who can help you find someone to interview:

  • Family, friends, neighbors 
  • Roommates and friends
  • Academic advisors, facutly and TAs, residence hall directors, career counselors, mentors
  • Alumni
  • Guest speakers and/or panalists at your student organization meetings 
  • Supervisors or co-workers at your part-time or volunteer job
  • Recruiters at career fairs and other on-campus recruting events
  • Members of professional associations related to your career field

Ask for an Informational Interview

Reaching out to a person you have never met can feel a little intimidating. They could say no. This is okay. Keep in mind people are busy and have multiple competing priorities, just like you. Since the purpose of an informational interview is to learn, you have lost nothing, except your time, to make contact. Before you reach out, learn about the career field and the organization where the person works.

Strategies for reaching out to a new contact:

  • Introduce yourself and explain your purpose
  • If you were referred by another person, mention who referred you (if not, share how you found the person)
  • Ask for a specific amount of time (i.e. 20 minutes)
  • Make it easy - offer to meet the person close to their office or start with a brief phone call
  • If the individual say’s “no”, ask if they know someone else who may be willing to chat with you

 

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Prepare for the Interview

Your preparation before you contacted the individual is not enough. You will need to do more in-depth preparation if they agree to meet you. Research on the career field, the organization, and perhaps the job market in the city or region where the individual lives and works. Prepare questions that you want to ask based on the individual situation. 

Questions to consider asking:

  • Describe your typical day
  • What training or education is required for this type of work?
  • What do you wish you had known about your career field when you were in college?
  • What jobs and experiences led you to your present employment?
  • If you could do things over, would you choose the same path? What would you change?
  • What part of your job is most satisfying? Most challenging?
  • Are there specific skill sets or training that would make someone more competitive than the typical college graduate?
  • What do you like most about the company/organization?  What do you not like? 
  • What advice would you give someone entering this field?

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Conduct the Interview

While you want to have questions prepared, you also want the conversation to flow. Choose questions strategically. Develop your questions based on what you have learned in your own research. Asking thoughtful questions will make your time together more effective and make a positive first impression.

Tips for the day of the interview:

  • Call or email to confirm your appointment and clarify directions and meeting place
  • Plan to arrive at least 10 minutes early
  • Dress appropriately. If you are unsure, ask the individual for advice
  • Be prepared to take notes
  • Show enthusiasm and interest
  • Be prepared for them to ask you questions about your interest in their field or employer
  • Be respectful of time. Do not continue to ask questions past your scheduled time

Stay Connected

After the interview, be sure to thank the individual for their time and insight and plan to keep in touch. They likely will want to know that their time with you was valuable. 

  • Send a thank you email or card expressing your appreciation
  • Let the person know how the information they provided was helpful to you
  • If you took their advice, reach out to let them know the outcome
  • Ask them to let you know if they think of anything else that they think might interest you
  • Make sure they have your contact information
  • If you will be searching for jobs or internships in the future, let them know and ask that they keep you in mind if they hear of opportunities that might be a good fit

 

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