Find out what an informational interview is, why you should do one, and how to start.
What is Informational Interviewing?
When it comes to finding out what it is like to have a particular career, nothing compares to talking to people who work in the field. Experienced professionals have a certain insight that can provide you with information never found in a book. Students interview workers to ask questions about career experiences. By learning about the career and educational choices these workers have made, students gain insight into their own options.
These interviews may take place at the worksite or over the phone. An informational interview generally lasts from 30 minutes to one hour. The informational interview may help determine the direction for other career exploration activities such as a job shadow or internship.
Why conduct an Informational Interview?
Informational interviewing gives you the opportunity to learn about different careers and gather more information for career planning. Informational Interviewing allows the opportunity to do a reality check on what you’ve read, heard, and thought about a particular field. This situation avoids the pressure of a formal interview for an existing job opening.
Many people will take the time to discuss their field if they realize you are genuinely interested in learning about career possibilities instead of expecting them to hire you. Informational Interviewing is a great way to enlarge your circle of expert contacts, to get more referrals, and make your own contacts—“Networking.”
Where do I start?
In order to get started, make a list of anyone you know who might have information that will help you in your career search. Think of relatives, friends, parents’ friends and friends’ parents, professors and deans, neighbors, and former employers. Call community service agencies and trade organizations (e.g. Rotary Club, Kiwanis, business and professional organizations, women’s organizations, Chamber of Commerce).
The Yellow pages are another avenue to pursue. It is important to decide what you are going to say before you contact anyone, so clarify your goals: whether you’re seeking career information, hiring trends, or names of others who can help you. Make developing a professional relationship your primary goal in order to conduct the interview most effectively.
Talk to a Sierra College counselor, or contact Career Connections to begin your research.
How do I arrange an Informational Interview?
Personal referral is the most effective. Have a mutual acquaintance be the bridge for your contact. When calling your contact, be sure to state that you would like career information to help you make decisions about your future. Emphasize that you are not looking to them for a job. Ask for a brief meeting, or if this is impossible, arrange a phone appointment.
Career Connections has resources for you to locate a potential professional for an interview.
What kind of questions should I ask?
The idea is to ask about those things that are important to you, and to let the conversation flow naturally while making sure you get the information you need. Be sure to obtain a business card so you have all their contact information.
- How did you decide to get into this field of work?
- How did you get into this field of work?
- What do you like best about your work?
- What do you like the least?
- What is a typical day or week like for someone in your occupation?
- What kind of skills, education, and/or training would I need to get into this area?
- What personal qualities are necessary for someone in this occupation?
- What is a typical entry-level salary? (Don’t ask how much the person you are interviewing earns!)
- Do you know someone else doing this kind of work that I could talk to for my research?
Career Connections’ resources can assist in additional informational interviewing questions. Following up with your contact can provide you with career advice and serve as a valuable career search resource in the future.
What should I do afterwards?
Follow up your interview with a thank-you note. In it, you might want to mention the information you found particularly interesting or helpful. Let them know that you appreciate them letting you ask questions and that the information they gave you will be valuable to you.