Why Conduct an Informational Interview?
- Make a great impression face-to-face with someone you might wish to approach in the future about a specific job — demonstrate initiative, good manners, curiosity and passion.
- Learn the language and issues of industries of interest.
- Open doors — get referrals to other people to interview and learn from.
- Increase exponentially your knowledge of job titles and organizations.
Informational Interview Tips
- Utilize social media (especially LinkedIn), professional associations and directories to make a list of people who are in positions, careers or organizations that interest you.
- Make an appointment to meet with each person:
- Introduce yourself.
- Explain that you are conducting informational interviews to learn more about their industry and that you’d like their advice.
- Ask for 15-20 minutes at a time of their convenience.
- Research the person, their organization and their industry ahead of time and prepare a list of questions
- Dress professionally and be respectful, learn more here!
- Take notes as the person speaks.
- Bring a paper copy of your resume, but don’t offer it unless requested.
- Never make the mistake of asking for a job during an informational interview – present yourself as a fact-finder rather than a job-seeker.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Avoid questions that could be easily answered through online research and preparation.
- Thank the person for their time and ask if they can suggest anyone for you to contact in order to learn more – be sure to ask if you can use your interviewee’s name when you contact the person they recommend.
- Send a thank-you letter or e-mail within 24 hours of the informational interview.
- Contact the names you were given as referrals and arrange more informational interviews.
- Keep previous interviewees updated on your process.
Sample Informational Interview Questions
- What career path did YOU follow to your present position? What are your career goals?
- If you were a college student again, what would you do differently to prepare for this job?
- What are the duties/functions/responsibilities of your current role? What is a typical day like?
- Why does this type of work interest you? How did you get started?
- What part of this job do you find most satisfying? Most challenging?
- What do you like and not like about working in this industry?
- What can you tell me about your organization’s corporate culture?
- How is this company different from its competitors?
- Why do customers choose this company?
- Which organizations outside your own do you consider to be especially well run?
- Where else would you recommend I investigate?
- What do you like about working for this company?
- Is there anything you dislike?
- What does this company look for when they are choosing who to hire?
- When they are choosing who to promote?
- What are the typical entry-level job titles and functions in this industry?
- What is a typical career path in this industry? What are some paths that people have followed that are completely atypical?
- What skills, licenses, certifications and experiences are especially valuable in your industry?
- What professional organizations do people in this industry commonly join?
- What majors did people in your industry pursue?
- In what ways is your industry changing?
- From everything you’ve observed, what problems can you cite regarding working in this career?
- What is the most important thing that someone interested in this industry should know?
- What kinds of things would you recommend I do now to improve my chances of success in your industry?
- What professional journals and publications should I be reading to learn about this career?
- What should I consider doing that I haven’t even thought of?
- What final advice do you have to offer?
Job shadowing is a great way to further observe the work, environment and culture of a position and company. Once you have had the informational interview with the professional, and made a great impression, they are more likely to want to help you. Feel free to ask if she/he would be willing to let you shadow for a few hours or days, or possibly attend an upcoming staff meeting or training.
Clarify the company dress code in advance.
Note as much as possible about the environment, such as the other workers, the manner in which interactions with co-workers and customers occur and the general pace.
Ask questions to clarify what you are observing and to learn more about the professional’s career progression. Transition times are often ideal for these conversations.
Be sure to ask the professional if any of the information you learn or observe is confidential (trade secrets, etc.), and respect that confidentiality.