Q. What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is an appointment you schedule with an individual in a particular career or industry in which you would like to obtain information. You will be able to get an "insider" point of view, which can help you identify or refine your career path. It is important to note that an informational interview is not a job interview and should be utilized for the purpose of obtaining information.
Q. Why should I conduct informational interviews?
There are several reasons, listed below are a few.
- An informational interview will help clarify your career goals, and help you find out if the career you want to pursue is right for you.
- Help in obtaining realistic information about what you assume or have heard about careers.
- Your knowledge of the job market will expand, and you may learn about other career paths you have not considered.
- While you are a student, you will make valuable contacts in some of the leading organizations and you will expand your professional network, as well as gain referrals to other professionals in the field.
- You will get an insider's perspective about the job search process.
Q. How do I get started?
- Choosing people to contact involves tapping into your network to find individuals who work in a career, specific job, company, or industry that interests you.
- Start with people you already know — friends, relatives, neighbors, classmates, former co-workers, and supervisors and ask for referrals.
- Utilize the internet and get connected to professional through LinkedIN; try to contact alum, seek advice from your current professors, look through the Yellow Pages, professional directories, and read the business section of the newspaper for names of companies and people.
- Call a company directly, and ask for names of people who would be willing to talk with you.
- Read about the field prior to contacting professionals, and decide what type of information you would like to learn more about.
Q. What is the best way to contact people for informational interviews?
- You can phone the person directly, write them, and then follow up with a phone call, or have someone who knows the person make the appointment for you.
- Be sure to mention your mutual acquaintance if you have one.
- Explain that you are a college student and that you are requesting a 20–30 minute appointment.
- Let them know that you are not seeking a job, but simply conducting research to help you make better career decisions.
Q. What kinds of questions should I ask?
Know exactly what kind of information you want by preparing a list of questions. Do not ask for information that you could easily answer on your own through other sources. Below are some sample questions.
- Tell me how you got started in your career.
- What education or experience might be helpful in entering this field? Would I need to go to graduate school to advance?
- What is a typical day on the job like? What skills should I develop to do this work?
- What are the biggest problems you deal with?
- What do you like/dislike most about your job?
- What do you see in the future for this industry?
- Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more about this field?
- When the time comes, how should I go about finding a job in this field? What experience would you recommend?
- Tell me about the salary structure (salary/bonus/commission) for someone entering this field.
- What is the earning potential over time?
- What kinds of companies/organizations hire people to do this work? What other careers could someone enter after gaining experience in this industry/occupation?
- What is the hiring process within your company? How do people typically find out about jobs here?
- Who would you recommend that I talk to next? May I use your name?
- If you could do it all over again, would you choose this field? Why? What would you do differently?
- What advice would you have liked to have received when you were in college?
- Do you have any other advice for me?
Q. What other tips should I keep in mind?
- Dress appropriately, arrive on time and turn off your cell phone.
- Immediately write a thank-you note, letter or email to your interviewer and referring contact after the meeting.
- Do bring your résumé — if things are going well, you may ask them to critique it. Otherwise, do not show it to your contact unless asked.
- Stay in touch with your contacts and let them know how your career process is going.
- Review the information you obtained — you now know more about the field you are considering and may decide you need to revise your career objective, need additional information, or that the career is perfect for you!