Informational Interview Guide
Purpose of the Informational Interview
Informational interviewing is a method of networking designed to produce information about a particular career. An informational interview can help you to determine a career path, learn about entering a career, gauge a company, and build your professional networking contacts. An informational interview is not a job interview, however, it allows you to build your network and may open up future job opportunities.
Reasons to conduct informational interviews:
- Gain information on your career field and the skills necessary to succeed
- Make contacts with managers, supervisors, and colleagues
- Gain information on positions that are not being advertised
- Learn about the realities of the job, as well as the needs of employers
- Gain confidence in talking with people, which may result in lower stress in a formal interview setting
- Identify your personal strengths and weaknesses in terms of the expectations of a specific job or company
Guidelines for Informational Interviewing
The first step in conducting informational interviews is to identify one or more careers about which you would like to learn. You should consider your own values, skills, interests, and experiences to identify a more specific area of interest. If you are unsure about these things, there are various career-related assessments available to assist you. Read any information that you can find in journals, newspapers, magazines, or newsletters regarding the companies or field in which you are interested.
The second step in informational interviewing is to identify people with whom to speak. Family, friends, peers, co-workers, supervisors, neighbors, etc. can help you make contact with people of interest. Most business leaders are willing to talk with students in order to help them develop their career goals. Also, the Business Career Services office can help connect you with alumni working in your field of choice. The most effective method to set up an informational interview is via telephone or e-mail. Interviews should be conducted in person, if possible.
After you have identified one or more professionals to speak with, it is essential to do your homework. Research the company, as well as the position of the person with whom you will be speaking. The more you know, the better the questions you'll be able to ask and the more you will get out of the interview.
It is also important that you practice proper informational interviewing etiquette. You should never ask for a job during an informational interview. If the employer tells you about a relevant position, ask about the proper procedures for applying. If you apply for the position, inform your interviewee via your thank you note. It is also inappropriate to ask the interviewee about their current or past salaries.
Tips for Success
Dress for success! Treat an informational interview as you would a formal job interview. By dressing the part, an employer will take you seriously and will be more likely to connect you with open positions or other professional contacts.
Ask intelligent, informed questions and maintain positive body language throughout the interview. Take notes that can allow you to research more or explore the field.
Bring your resume to the interview. If you feel comfortable at the end of the conversation, ask the interviewee to critique your resume or offer to leave it with them. This can allow the professional an opportunity to see your skills and abilities without pressuring them to hire you.
Ask for referrals! After speaking with an employer, ask for suggestions for other individuals or companies that you might contact.
Before you leave, ask for a business card and write a thank you e-mail within 48 hours.
Questions to Ask
There are hundreds of questions to ask in an interview. Below are some common questions with which to familiarize yourself. For more questions, please see 201 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview, available in the Business Career Services office.
- What is your job like?
- What is a typical day like?
- What are your responsibilities/job duties?
- How do you use your time?
- What decisions do you have to make?
- Why did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
- How did you obtain your job?
- How can a student gain the experience necessary to be successful in this position?
- Why did you decide to work for this company?
- What do you like most about this company?
- How would you describe the company's culture and people?
- What abilities do you think contribute the most to success in your job?
- These are my personal strengths (skills, personality traits, values, etc). Where would they fit in this field?