Informational interviews are a great way to learn about a career ﬁeld of interest to you. It’s a useful tool for building your network. In an informational interview, you will connect with a professional in one ﬁeld of career interest and ask them questions to learn about career paths, industries, and potential opportunities. These interviews can happen over coﬀee, at an oﬃce, on the phone or via Skype.
What exactly does an informational interview entail?
- Contacting people you know or want to meet to gather information about career paths, industries, organizations, and/or potential opportunities
- Building relationships with individuals who can help the progress of your career exploration, decision making, and job/internship search
- Asking individuals who you initially connect with for additional relevant contacts in order to expand your network
Remember: Not everyone will respond to your request or network, but the ones who do will likely be very happy to help you and provide advice, referrals or other contacts.
Getting Started and Preparing for Informational Interviews
Since the primary purpose of informational interviewing is to gather information, you should never approach this activity as “getting a job” but rather as a career research. Ask well-researched questions and start to build a relationship with a new contact. Research leads to information, which leads to hearing about openings.
Reach out to request The Informational interview
- Create a list of potential contacts using an organized way of tracking communications, such as an excel spreadsheet.
- Approach contacts either in person, via email, or phone to arrange informational interviews.
- Your initial outreach should be brief and contain the following information:
- How you found him/her (alumni network, referral, online research, etc.).
- Your school, area of study, and expected year of graduation.
- Your current status (career exploration, industry research, job search, etc.).
- What you are asking them for (information about their organization, industry tips, job search techniques, etc.).
- How you would like to interact — in-person, via phone or skype.
- How and when you will follow up (allow two weeks before doing so).
PrepARE For the meeting
- Research the industry and organization before your informational interview. You should ask questions that cannot be answered online and which show your interest.
- Search the contact online and check his/her proﬁle on LinkedIn to learn about his/her position.
- Be prepared to talk about yourself with a brief introduction that shares your educational information, key involvements/experiences and career interests.
- Before the meeting, devise a list of 8–10 questions and prioritize them, you might only get to a few.
Conduct the informational interview
- Dress appropriately for the industry
- Bring along extra copies of your resume, in case it comes up in conversation.
- Know where you’re going, and arrive 10 minutes early to the meeting.
- Ask for feedback on your resume. It’s an appropriate part of an interaction.
- Always ask your contact if he/she can recommend other individuals with whom to speak before ending the interview. If connect with these people, be sure to let the original contact know.
- Ask if there’s anything you can do for the contact.
Follow Up After the meeting
- Send a thank you note after every interaction.
- Maintain the relationship by initiating contact every few months to report progress, or to share information in which they might be interested in such as an article or upcoming event.
- Make the primary goal of the interactions developing a relationship, rather than getting a job.