An informational interview is a meeting in which a job seeker meets with a professional in their field(s) of interest to gather information about a particular position, company, or industry and to find connections that will expand their professional network. Informational interviews can take place in person or over the phone. Keep the conversation to 20–30 minutes.
How to Get Started
Make contact with a professional through your personal network, LinkedIn, or the company website to arrange a meeting to discuss your interests. If you are reaching out to a contact via email, be sure to include the following information:
- A personal introduction – include your full name, major, and year.
- A clear explanation of why you want to talk to this person, specifically.
- A call to action – what you want to get from this person. For example, "I would like to schedule a phone call with you to talk about your experience with..."
Before you proceed to connect with your contact over the phone or in person, make sure to have the following in front of you:
- Résumé – This will help you speak intelligently and in an organized manner about your experiences.
- Calendar – It is important to have your schedule ready with your availability.
- Paper and pen – Take notes, always make sure to ask for the correct spelling of names.
- Quiet room – Call from a quiet place so you may speak professionally without interruptions.
- Research the company – Use the company website, Vault, LinkedIn, or Glassdoor to find company information. Try searching for any current events related to the organization or the industry.
- Bring an updated résumé or email it to your contact before you talk. This contact wants to get to know you as well!
- Dress appropriately.
- Be on time – If you are talking over the phone make sure you know who will be calling who, and you have their contact information.
- Prepare direct questions in order to learn more about a specific career track or industry – If you find yourself asking "What does your company do," or "What do you do," you are not setting yourself up to gather useful information.
Important Points to Remember
- This is not a sneaky way to get in the back door of a company for a job interview. Do not turn this informational interview into a job interview.
- Know when to end the interview. If you told the interviewee you would only take 30 minutes of their time, make sure you wrap up the interview in that time frame.
Remarks such as "I don't want to go over the 30 minutes I asked for, so let me ask you a final question" can be used to let the interviewee know you are keeping your word.
- Ask for the interviewee's business card and if you can stay in touch.
- Thank the interviewee and follow up with a thank-you email.
Prepare a list of questions to review with your contact before you connect. Limit the number of closed-ended (yes/no answers) questions. Prioritize your questions. The most important questions to ask are questions that you want answered. Below are some helpful examples:
- Can you tell me about your career path? What influenced your decision to move from position to position?
- What is your favorite part about working at (company) as a (job title)?
- What advice do you have for someone who is interested in pursuing a career in this field?
- How do you think I can stand out to a potential employer in this field? Are there certain skills or experiences that you think are essential for me to highlight?
Here are a few additional topics to consider:
- Tell me how you got started in this field.
- What was your education?
- What educational background or related experience might be helpful in entering this field?
- What are the daily duties of the job?
- What are the working conditions?
- What skills/abilities are utilized in this work?
- What do you like best and least about your career? Why?
- What do you find most rewarding about this work?
- What are the toughest challenges you deal with?
- What challenges does the organization have as a whole?
- Where do you see yourself in two years?
- What are your long-term career goals?
- What trends do you see for this industry in the next three to five years?
- What kind of future do you see for the organization?
- How much of your business is tied to (the economy, government spending, weather, supplies, etc.)?
- What are the most important factors used to hire people in this work (education, past experience, personality, communication skills, etc.)?
- What courses do you wish you had taken that would have better prepared you for this or any field?
- What courses did you take that have proven most valuable in this field?
- How important are grades and GPA for obtaining a job in this field?
- How do people find out about your jobs? Are they advertised in the online job boards? Which ones?
- Do you utilize the human resource office for the hiring process?
- What type of employers hire people in this line of work?
- What other career fields do you find are related to your work?
- How well suited is my background for this industry?
- What experience, paid or volunteer, would you recommend?
- What suggestions do you have to help make my résumé more effective?
- What advice do you have for someone who is considering this type of career?
- Based on our conversation today, are there other people you believe I should speak with in another department?