Informational interviews are a crucial and often overlooked aspect of networking. They are the best ways to find out about a type of occupation and make a contact. Informational interviews are person-to-person conversations that help you gain information, insight, and advice from people who are in the functional areas, industries, and companies that hold your interest.
You will conduct an informational interview to gain greater insight into the job or career you are investigating. Select an individual who has experience in the job that you aspire to have.
First, identify the industry and career or job you want to learn more about. Do some background research and identify the organizations you would like to know about and the people who can give you the information you need.
Your interview should be conducted with someone who is actually doing the work you are interested in finding out more about and has sufficient experience working in your field of career interest.
You can use people you already know to give you the contact details of these workers, such as friends, relatives, colleagues, and professors. You can call the Human Resources department of relevant organizations and ask for contact details of people in the position you are investigating. You can also get names of suitable workers from career offices, employment agencies and professional organizations and directories.
Setting up the Interview
To set up the interview, contact the relevant individual and request an opportunity to talk with them for about 20-30 minutes. Tell them straight away that you want to learn more about the industry, job, and company and that you have prepared a list of questions to ask them.
You need to reassure them that you are not asking them for a job but you are only seeking advice. This way they will be more comfortable with meeting you. It is important to arrange the information interview at the person’s work site so you can get a feeling for the organization.
Preparing for the Interview
The key to a successful interview is preparation. Use your background research to understand the basics of the industry, company and specific position. Prepare a list of the questions you want answers to. Use the sample questions to help you plan good, information-seeking questions to ask.
Questions to Ask at the Informational Interview
List about ten to fifteen questions to ask about the following areas of employment in this career field:
- the education, experience, skills and abilities needed for the career you are looking at;
- a typical day on the job;
- the rewards and challenges of this type of employment.
Use these examples of good informational interview questions to help you prepare for your information interview.
- How did you get started in this line of work?
- How did you get into this particular job?
- Why did you apply for this particular position?
- What qualifications and experience did you need?
- What skills and abilities are necessary for performing this work?
- What are the main responsibilities in this job?
- What are the things you like most about the job?
- What do you dislike about the job?
- What have you found to be the biggest challenges in your work?
- What have you found to be the most significant rewards in this work?
- What are the necessary requirements for an entry-level position in this industry?
- What are the career path options in this industry/organization?
- What opportunities have you had in this job?
- Where do you think this industry/career is going in the next couple of years?
- Which companies do you consider to be the leaders in this field?
- What advice would you give to someone looking for a similar job in this industry?
- Is there anything else I should know about this work?
Tips for the Informational Interview
- Use the informational interview to get insight into the job you are looking for and the type of company you want to work for.
- Stick to the time limit you initially stated.
- Stick to information gathering, the purpose is not to ask about available jobs.
- Although this is not a job interview, you should dress professional and be punctual, polite and prepared.
- Immediately after the interview follow up with a thank you note.
- Something along these lines can be used:
- Thank you for talking with me yesterday and taking the time to answer all my questions. I found it very helpful and I now have a much clearer understanding of this field of work. I know you have a busy schedule and I appreciate the time you spent with me.
- Something along these lines can be used:
Following the interview, submit a 2-3 page report outlining your findings and some of the interviewee’s more notable comments. What did you learn most from the informational interview?
In the written interview report, be sure to show in the heading or the first paragraph the full name and title of the person you interviewed, the name, address, and telephone number of the company, and the date of the interview.