Informational Interviewing

Talking with professionals in your field of interest is a great way to learn the inside scoop of an occupation, industry, and/or company. This article describes how to conduct an informational interview.

What is an informational interview?

Informational Interviews allow you an opportunity to talk with a professional from your field of interest about the industry, company culture and career path. Students can gain knowledge of what the day to day tasks and roles are, as well as information about the bigger picture of that type of position or industry.

How to Conduct Informational Interviews:

  1. Use your network to identify a person currently working or who previously worked in the industry you are considering. Often times you can find these people by talking with friends and relatives. Also ask faculty members, and other campus staff for suggestions. Other ways to network: use social media (such as Facebook and LinkedIn), contact alumni by using the alumni database, cold calling a company or organization (you can identify people by using a chamber of commerce member listing, professional association member listings, or yellow pages).
  2. Prior to your meeting, identify 10 questions about the industry you would like to ask the professional.
  3. Contact the professional by telephone, email, or in person, introduce yourself (practice this ahead of time) and ask for thirty minutes of their time.

Suggestions for general questions you may want to ask:

  • How did you get started in this industry?
  • What made you choose to work for this company?
  • What do you like the most and least about this industry/company/job?
  • What growth opportunities do you see in this field?
  • What are the ideal education, background, and skills for success in this industry?
  • What impresses you when interviewing candidates for entry-level positions?
  • What advice can you give me as I pursue jobs in this field?
  • Do you know of anyone else I could speak to about this industry?
  • Click here for more questions.

Tips to remember:

Be respectful of the professional’s time. S/he is volunteering to give you valuable information, thank them for the time they are devoting to you. If meeting in person, arrive 10 minutes early.

Send a thank you note to the professional. This allows you to show your gratitude and professionalism. Keeping your contacts fresh may be important later when you are looking for a job.

After the informational interview, evaluate what you learned:

What did you like the most about this industry, job or career track? (What seemed challenging, rewarding or satisfying to you?)
What did you dislike?
What did you learn about the daily tasks and responsibilities?
What are the skills and experience required for this position/career? Are there training/career path opportunities?
Are there gaps between your background and the job/career requirements?
Who else should you talk to about this or related job fields?