Download our Informational Interview worksheet
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 a position that interests you. An informational interview is a meeting with an established professional to learn more about their position, industry and career path. An informational interview:
- Allows you to determine whether the career, industry or company matches your skills, interests and values
- Confirms information you have read and provides access to the most up-to-date career information
- Expands your professional network
- Provides you with tips and information about the career field that may be helful while applying and interviewing for positions
- Offers an opportunity to see an organization from the inside
- Helps you identify professional strengths and areas for growth/improvement to be successful in your career
Do not take the chance of embarrassing yourself or upsetting a potential employer by asking for a job or using the informational interview to request an employment interview. The purpose of the informational interview is to research and inform your career decisions.
How to Set-up an Informational Interview
Step 1: Identify the Occupation or Industry of Interest
Assess your own skills, interests and values. Remember to research current labor conditions and trends.
Step 2: Identify People to Interview
Start with lists of people you already know: Career Services staff members, friends, relatives, LinkedIn contacts, fellow students, faculty, present or former coworkers, supervisors and neighbors. Also try the yellow pages, professional organizations, organizational directories and public speakers. Consider emailing an organization and requesting a contact name by job title. Use your network to help you connect with other professionals.
Step 3: Arrange the Interview
Contact the individual you selected to set-up an interview by telephone or email, or have a network connection make a referral for you. Request 30 minutes to 1 hour of their time, and allow ample time for them to provide a response. Do not be pushy. Be respectful of the professional's time by planning the goals for the interview in advance.
Step 4: Prepare for the Interview
Research the field, organization and the person you are interviewing prior to the interview. Decide what information you would like to obtain about the occupation or industry, and prepare a list of questions. Do not be afraid to ask follow-up questions as they arise.
Step 5: Conduct the Interview
Dress professionally, and arrive about ten minutes early. Remember to be polite and professional. Refer to your list of prepared questions and stay on track, allowing time for spontaneous discussion. Take only the amount of time you requested and scheduled. Before leaving, ask your contact to suggest names of other individuals who may be helpful to add to your network. Ask permission to use the professional's name when contacting these new individuals.
Step 6: Follow-up
Immediately following the interview, ask for a business card and record the information you learned. Be sure to send a thank you note to your contact within one day after the interview.
Sample Informational Interview Questions
The following are sample questions for an informational interview. Remember to customize your questions to best meet your needs. Add or modify questions as needed.
- 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 is the salary range for various levels in this field?
- What is the demand for people in this occupation?
- What special advice would you give a person entering this field?
- What types of training do companies offer individuals entering this field?
- If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?
- What is your level of freedom to solve problems and take action on the job?
- Tell me about your working conditions.
- How has your work changed recently due to technology, marketplace or competition? How will the field change in the future?
- How did you find your job?
- Can you suggest anyone else I can talk with about this field?
- Add a few questions of your own: __________________________________________________________________________________________