Use informational interviews to find out more about a certain profession or specific field of work. They allow you to determine whether the career, industry or company matches your skills, interests and expectations. It will also help you understand the general duties of the job and the physical demands and environmental conditions involved in the job. You get to see an organization from the inside.
Informational interviewing also helps confirm information that you have read. It assists you in organizing your future work search by revealing the key ways to get into the profession. It provides you with tips and information about the job and field that could be of value in preparing for job applications and interviews.
It's also a powerful networking tool. The people you meet with and the connections you make may be helpful to you in your future work search.
Steps for Successful Informational Interviewing
1. Do your research.
Keep in mind that the more you know about the organization or occupation that you are interested in, the more specific and meaningful your questions will be. Therefore, it is important to research the organization and/or the occupation before making an appointment with the company. You will get more out of your interview and make a good impression on the person you are interviewing.
Since this is for career research, speak to the person doing the career you are interested in. Consider approaching:
friends and family, professors, teaching assistants, fellow students
current and former employers and supervisors
people you have never met before!
2. Reasons for Conducting Informational Interviews.
Integrity is critical in informational interviewing. You need to be clear and up front with any contacts about your reasons for wanting to speak with them. In career exploration, typical reasons may include learning about a career and learning about the educational requirements.
3. Scheduling the Informational Interview.
You can make the initial contact by phone, email, letter, or in person.
Take the time to briefly introduce yourself and your background.
Be specific about what you want – i.e. amount of time (20-30 minutes), type of contact.
4. The Interview.
You have arrived on time and are dressed appropriately for the work environment. When the interviewee comes out to meet you, introduce yourself. Thank them for their willingness to meet with you, and reemphasize that you are there to learn and gather information about their career field. Use an informal dialogue during the interview.
Ask concise questions that you have prepared in advance. When asking questions in an informational interview, make sure that your questions are open-ended. For example, don't ask "Do you like your job?" because this question can be answered with only one word. Instead, ask "Why do you like your job?". This question will yield a useful answer. Allow the person an opportunity to provide additional information, and take notes during your meetings.
5. Sample Questions to Ask.
What is your job like? Could you describe a typical day?
Why did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
With the information you have about my education, skills, and experience, what other fields or jobs would you suggest I research further?
Does your current work relate to any of your previous experiences or education?
How well did your education prepare you for this job?
Which professional journals, websites and organizations would help me learn more?
Are there other people in the field/company you would recommend I speak with? Can I mention your name?
6. Last Steps.
Always send a thank you note. Follow up on any new contacts that were suggested and let the person who gave you that info know that you followed up and it was helpful. Finally, record and evaluate the information you collected.
Check out this fun resource about conducting an Informational Interview.