How to Conduct an Informational Interview
Updated: Apr 9, 2021
What is an Informational Interview?
An Informational Interview is conducted by you, the student, to gather information about a specific job, career field, industry or organization. It is also key to developing your network (which is the way 80% of people get jobs).
The Informational Interview is an opportunity for you to learn first-hand experiences of someone in the occupation. The conversation is directed by the student’s questions.
This is not a job interview.
What are the benefits of an informational Interview?
Conducting an Informational Interview enables you to have a conversation and exchange information with a professional working in a field of interest to you (and to find out if that field interests you).
It creates an opportunity to network within your field, explore careers and perhaps most importantly: uncover the hidden job market.
What is the hidden job market?
The hidden job market is a term used to describe positions that are not advertised or posted online.
This is the way 80% of people become employed. It is more about who you know, than what you know!
Whom should I interview?
Someone who is working in your area of interest, or at the company or organization you are interested in. This person will be able to provide you specific insight on job functions and industries.
How do I conduct the interview?
Develop your “elevator pitch.” Then, begin the interview—via email or phone—by introducing yourself (with that pitch) and then explaining why you would like to speak with them. Be specific.
Prepare a list of questions for the interview. DO NOT ask for a job!
Be on time, dressed professionally and have a list of questions prepared based on your research (regarding the person’s background, the company or organization and the field).
Following up after the interview IS A MUST!
Follow up with a thank you note within 24-48 hours after the interview.
Stay in touch periodically through email to update your contact on your career decisions. Give back by sending relevant information, such as an article or blog post, that is pertinent to your conversation. Networking is a two way street; you must contribute to this relationship that you are building.
Develop a system (spreadsheet) to keep track of who you connected with including: contact name, title, company, contact information as well as notes and information you gathered during the interview. This becomes your network – which is also known as your social capital.
Here’s how to set up an Informational Interview:
If someone is introducing you to the Informational Interview contact:
The staff person will send an email to you and the contact with a virtual introduction.
Then, you “reply all,” thanking the staff person for the introduction and greeting the contact.
You will then write a message, similar to the example below:
Good morning/afternoon, by way of introduction my name is (insert your elevator pitch or a version of it). As (staff name) shared with you, I am very interested in learning more about (name the position, the industry or the company or organization’s name). Would you be willing to meet with me—at your convenience, for about 30 minutes—so I can learn more about your profession and your background? If you can give me a few days, dates and times that you are available, I will be happy to do my best to arrange my schedule to be able to meet you at your office. I am requesting 30 minutes of your time.
Thank you for your consideration,
Your first and last name, (XXX) XXX-XXXX (your mobile number)
If you are introducing yourself, use the same introduction, but remove “As (staff) shared with you” and begin the sentence with “I am very interested in learning …”
BE FLEXIBLE and DO YOUR BEST to make yourself available when the contact is available. Remember: this individual is likely busy and will meet with you just because you are asking them to. Be respectful of this person’s time.
ONCE THE DATE HAS BEEN CONFIRMED, be sure you are clear on the day and the date! Create an appointment in your personal calendar. Do not forget to calculate in travel time to the location where the Informational Interview is taking place BEFORE the time of the appointment. ASK FOR any specific parking directions, costs, if there is a front desk where you should check in, etc. Or, if you are meeting at a coffee shop, be sure to clarify WHICH location (street address, nearby distinct markers). Be sure to include all of these details in the notes of your calendar appointment so you do not lose them.
DO NOT send your resume with this introductory email. Have your resume with you for the interview (in a folder) and do not lead with it. Sharing your resume at the beginning of the meeting relays the message: “hire me.” Instead, remember: an informational interview is a tool for career exploration and developing your network.
Once a date is confirmed, contact Career Services if you’d like to prep you for the informational interview.
Informational Interview Questions for Career Exploration
Can you tell me about your job?
Can you describe a typical day?
What are the duties/responsibilities/functions of your job?
What issues do you deal with?
What kinds of decisions do you make?
What percentage of your time is spent completing certain tasks?
How did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
What jobs and experience led to your current position?
Can you suggest some ways a student could obtain this necessary experience?
What do you find most satisfying in your job? Most challenging?
What were the keys to your career advancement?
What are the personal qualities and skills that are most important for a position in this field?
How has your job affected your lifestyle?
If you could go back in time, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?
Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more about the field?
Would you mind taking a look at my resume?
Questions for Job Search
Based on my background, what sort of employer do you think would be most interested in my experience and skill set?
Which environment(s) do you suggest align with my strengths: bigger vs. smaller; start-up vs. established; mature vs. rapid growth/entrepreneurial organization?
If you were to hire someone to work with you today, what factors would be most important in your hiring decision and why?
Questions to Gain Perspective about an Industry
What general economic, operational and employment trends do you see in the industry?
What are the professional organizations in the industry?
What do you see as long term trends or prospects in the industry?
Are there other industry leaders I should be aware of?
Questions about a Target Company/Organization
What is the size of the organization? Does it have multiple locations?
What is the organizational structure?
How would you describe the work culture?
What types of formal or on-the-job training does the organization provide?