An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone working in an area that interests you who will give you information and advice. It is an effective research tool in addition to reading books, exploring the Internet and examining job descriptions. It is not a job interview, and the objective is not to find job openings.
BENEFITS OF INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWING:
- Get firsthand, relevant information about the realities of working in a field, industry or position.
- Find out about career paths you did not know existed.
- Discover what others with your same major are doing in their careers.
- Get tips about how to prepare for and enter a given career.
- Improve your communication skills and confidence speaking with professionals.
- Learn what it’s like to work at a specific organization.
- Gain knowledge that can help you in resume writing, interviewing, and other job search activities.
- Expand your network of contacts in a specific career field
SIX STEPS FOR INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWING:
1. Research Career Fields
2. Identify people to interview
- Pursue your own contacts. This includes family, friends, professors and former employers.
- Use LinkedIn – contact alum
- Attend events on campus where guest lecturers are speaking (check Dean Price’s Monday emails, Chapman University Weekly Update emails, & sign up for the CDC newsletter)
- Become a student member of a professional or trade associations
3. Prepare for the interview
- Develop your Spintro! Include your reasons for contacting that person, as a way to introduce yourself and define the context of the meeting
- Plan open-ended questions to ask
4. Initiate contact
- Contact the person by email or message on LinkedIn
- Mention how you got his or her name
- Ask whether it’s a good time to talk for a few minutes
- Emphasize that you are looking for information, not a job
- Ask for a convenient time to have a 15-20 minute appointment (ask to meet for coffee)
- Be ready to ask questions on the spot if the person says it is a good time for him/her
Sample Telephone Script Requesting an Informational Interview
Hello. My name is ______ and I'm a junior majoring in English at Chapman University. Is this a good time for you to talk briefly? I heard you speak at an event sponsored by ________ last week. Although I am not currently looking for a job, I have become very interested in public relations and would like to find out as much as I can about the field. Would it be possible to schedule 15 to 20 minutes with you at your convenience to ask you a few questions and get your advice on how best to prepare to enter the field?
5. Conduct the informational interview
- Dress neatly and appropriately, as you would for a job interview
- Arrive on time or a few minutes early
- Restate that your objective is to get information and advice, not a job
- Give a brief overview of yourself and your education and/or work background (Spintro)
- Be prepared to direct the interview, but let the conversation flow naturally, and encourage the interviewee to do most of the talking
- Listen well and show genuine interest in what the person has to say
- Take notes if you'd like
- Respect the person's time; keep the appointment length within the time span that you requested.
- Ask the person if you may contact him or her again in the future with other questions
- Always ask for names of other people to talk to for additional information or a different perspective
Note: You can bring a resume, but don’t take it out right away or lead with questions about it or your interviewee may think you’re actually fishing for a job opportunity. You may wish to ask for input about it at some point in the interview, but first make sure you’ve established a comfortable rapport with the person.
- Keep records; after the interview write down what you learned, what more you'd like to know and your reactions in terms of how this industry, field or position would "fit" with your lifestyle, interests, skills and future career plans
- Send a thank-you note within 1-2 days to express your appreciation for the time and information given. Based on whether the informational interview was relatively informal or more businesslike, this may be a brief handwritten note, an email, or a business letter
- Keep in touch with the person via LinkedIn or email, especially if you had a particularly nice interaction; let him/her know that you followed up on advice and how things are going as a result
Sample Informational Interview Questions:
¨ What is a day on this job really like?
¨ How did you get into this field?
¨ How do you stay current in your knowledge?
¨ What do you like about your job? Dislike?
¨ Is your job typical of others in this field?
¨ What kinds of problems do you deal with?
¨ What kinds of decisions do you make?
¨ What are your main responsibilities as a...?
¨ How does your position fit within the organization/career field/industry?
¨ How does your job affect your general lifestyle?
¨ How did you begin your career?
¨ What's the corporate culture like here? (hours, salary, titles)
¨ If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path? If not, what would you change?
¨ What advice would you give someone who is considering this type of job (or field)?
HOW TO LAND AN INTERNSHIP/JOB:
¨ What are employers looking for? (skills, education, experience)
¨ What kind of experience or training is required?
¨ What are current job prospects like?
¨ What's the best way to find out about jobs in this field?
¨ May I have a copy of a job description?
¨ Can you refer me to someone else in this field?
¨ Are there related fields I might want to look into if few jobs are available in my primary career goal?
¨ What makes a resume impressive in your field?
¨ Is my resume appropriate for this occupation?
¨ What steps would you recommend I take to prepare to enter this field?
¨ What is the profile of the person most recently hired at my level?
¨ What kind of education, training, or background does your job require?
¨ What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/this field?
CAREER FOCUSED QUESTIONS:
¨ How relevant to your work is your undergraduate major?
¨ Which firms do you think are your toughest competitors, and how do they differ from your company?
¨ What is the potential for advancement?
¨ How do you normally hire for this occupation?
¨ What current issues and trends in the field should I know about/be aware of?
¨ What are the future trends for this field?
¨ What are some common career paths in this field?
¨ What kinds of accomplishments tend to be valued and rewarded in this field?
¨ How do most people get into this field? What are common entry-level jobs?
¨ I’ve read that the entry-level salary range for this field is usually in the range of ______? Does this fit with what you’ve seen? (Don’t ask about the person’s actual salary.)
¨ What are the most effective strategies for seeking a position in this field?
¨ Can you recommend trade journals, magazines or professional associations which would be helpful for my professional development?