An informational interview is an interview that you initiate with someone in a job, organization, or career of interest to you. You are the interviewer, rather than the interviewee. The purpose is to obtain information, not to get a job. Informational interviews can help individuals with several aspects of career development and job search, including the following:
- Exploring careers and clarifying career goals
- Practicing interview skills
- Practicing networking skills
- Expanding a professional network
- Accessing first-hand information about a particular job, industry, or employer
- Providing an opportunity to favorably impress someone in your field of interest
- Increasing your self confidence related to talking to employers
- Gaining information about job search strategies and recommendations in your field
Steps for Arranging an Informational Interview
Identify the Occupation or Industry You Wish to Learn About: Assess your own interests, abilities, values, and skills. Research salary and job market information; compile information about the fields in which you are interested.
Prepare for the Interview: Read all you can about the field prior to the interview. Decide what information you would like to obtain about the occupation/industry. Prepare a list of questions that you would like to have answered (see suggestions below). Do not waste the person's time by asking questions you could have found the answers to elsewhere fairly easily.
Identify People to Interview: Start with lists of people you already know - friends, relatives, fellow students, present or former co-workers, supervisors, neighbors. Professional organizations, the yellow pages, organizational directories, alumni from your college, and public speakers are also good resources. You may also call an organization and ask for the name of the person by job title. Essentially, anyone who works in a career you are interested in, works in an environment that appeals to you, or works in a specific job you are curious about is an appropriate person. It's generally advisable to select someone with at least a few years of experience in the field. Career Services staff may be able to help you facilitate contacts with alumni and community professionals.
Contact the person to set up an interview: Make a telephone call, send a letter and follow-up with a phone call, or talk to an acquaintance about setting up an appointment for you. Be specific about how much time you are asking for. Know that the person has the right to deny your request for the interview. To minimize such denials, be sure to clarify that your purpose is to gather information, not to solicit a job. Then be sure to adhere to the time limitation and purpose.
Conduct the Interview: Dress appropriately (business casual or interview attire), arrive on time, be polite and professional. Be prepared. Refer to your list of prepared questions; stay on track, but allow for spontaneous discussion. Before leaving, consider asking your contact to suggest names of at least two others who might be helpful to you and ask permission to use your contact's name when contacting these new contacts.
Follow Up: Immediately following the interview, record the information gathered. Be sure to send a thank-you note to your contact within one week of the interview. Then, analyze the information you've gathered. Adjust your job search, resume, and career objective if necessary.
Prepare a list of your own questions for your informational interview. Following are some sample questions:
- On a typical day in this position, what do you do?
- What training or education is required/recommended for this type of work?
- What personal qualities or abilities do you think are important to being successful in this position?
- What part of this job do you find most satisfying? most challenging?
- How did you get into this line of work?
- What opportunities for advancement are there in this field?
- What entry level jobs are best for learning as much as possible?
- What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field?
- How do you see jobs in this field changing in the future?
- Is there a demand for people in this occupation?
- What are some of the trends affecting this field?
- How would you describe your approach to career development in this field?
- What are some aspects of this type of work that is often not recognized by people not doing it?
- What advice would you give a person entering this field?
- What types of training do companies offer persons entering this field?
- What are the basic prerequisites for jobs in this field?
- What types of educational experiences would benefit someone entering this field?
- What do you believe employers are looking for in new professionals entering this field?
- Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more about this field?
- What do you think of the experience I've had so far in terms of entering this field?
- From your perspective, what are the problems you see working in this field?
- If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?
- Is there someone else I should talk to in order to gather more information about this field? When I call him/her, may I use your name?