An informational interview is one of the few interviews in which you are in control of the questions asked. It is a chance to learn more about a specific career without making a long-term commitment of your time or money.
Why an Informational Interview?
You can find out about the responsibilities, rewards and problem areas inherent in a specific career by asking questions of people already established in that field.
When you begin your process of informational interviewing, keep in mind: You are not asking for a job. You are simply asking for information and advice. So you are not putting this person on the spot.
You have the right, and a responsibility to yourself to seek advice and information from those who can best help you.
- Gain direct information about career fields. Learn about new fields you may not have been aware of before.
- Define career goals more clearly.
- Find out what employers are looking for and how to market your skills most effectively.
- Confirm career decisions.
- Obtain information about specific companies. Improve job interviewing skills.
- Create a network of people who can help in the job search.
- Learn how to get a job in your chosen field.
Inform yourself about the field, the organizations, and the person you will be interviewing. Know and state specifically what you are interested in learning more about a particular job, career field, industry, or business.
Arrange a list of the questions you want to ask, including some that you know will be interesting to answer. Organize your thoughts before calling or meeting, and speak clearly.
Rehearse by interviewing people for information whenever you get a chance (formally or informally). You will find that people really like to talk about themselves and their work. Remember, the informational interview is a conversation. Practicing will help you feel comfortable with the process.
Express interest. Listen attentively. Show enthusiasm and appreciation. Be aware of your non-verbal cues.
Ask for 20 or 30 minutes of the person’s time at their convenience. Be sure to keep the meeting within that time frame. If possible, try to meet the person at their worksite so that you can get an idea of the working environment and culture associated with the job. Dress appropriately for the location and arrive a few minutes early.
Write down the information you received, the name of the person with whom you have spoken, and the date of the interview for your records. Later, you can compare information received from different sources. Be sure to ask for the names of other individuals who might give you different perspectives. Request that you be able to stay in touch with the person over time. Send a thank you letter after the informational interview.
Keep records of your discussion, including names, phone numbers, and addresses. The next time you talk to that person, refer to your notes to refresh your memory.