One of the most effective methods of obtaining more detailed information about a particular career is to conduct an informational interview with someone who holds the position that interests you. The benefits are numerous:
- Allows you to determine whether the career, industry or company matches your skills, interests and expectations
- Confirms information that you have read and provides information not available in written form
- Assists you in organizing your future job search by revealing the best ways to get into the profession
- Expands your professional network
- Allows access to the most up-to-date career information
- Provides you with tips and information about the job and career field that could be of great value in preparing applications for work and/or a job interview
- Gives you an opportunity to see the organization from the inside
- Helps you identify your professional strengths and weaknesses
How to Set Up an Interview
Step One: Identify an Occupation or Industry
Assess your own interests, abilities, values, and skills, and evaluate labor conditions and trends.
Step Two: 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.
Step Three: 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, and public speakers, etc. You may also call an organization and ask for the name of the person by job title.
Step Four: Arrange the Interview
Contact the person to set up an interview:
- By telephone
- By a letter followed by a telephone call
- By having someone who knows the person make a referral for you
Step Five: Conduct the Interview
Dress appropriately, arrive on time, and be polite and professional.
Refer to your list of prepared questions; stay on track, but allow for spontaneous discussion. Take only the amount of time you have asked for – 30 minutes is average.
Before leaving, ask your contact to suggest names of others who might be helpful to you and ask permission to use his/her name when contacting these new individuals.
The purpose of the interview is to collect information that will allow you to make informed career decisions. Do not take the chance of embarrassing yourself or upsetting a potential employer by using the informational interview to ask for a job or set up an employment interview.
Step Six: Follow Up
Immediately following the interview, record the information gathered. Be sure to send a thank-you note to your contact one to two days after the interview. Need help? Download the post interview assessment.
The following are sample questions to ask in the follow up:
(Please remember to customize your questions to best meet your needs)
- On a typical day in this position, what do you do?
- What training, education, personal qualities, abilities and special requirements are needed for this type of work?
- What part of this job do you find most satisfying? Most challenging?
- What opportunities for advancement are there in this field?
- What entry-level jobs are best for learning as much as possible?
- What special advice would you give a person entering this field?
- What types of training do companies offer persons entering this field?
- How did you find your job?
- Can you suggest anyone else I can talk with about this field?
Need help? Download the interview preparation material.