Informational interviewing is designed to help you gather information, resources and support by connecting with others.
Purpose of Informational Interviewing
One of the most powerful methods of information gathering for exploring career options is informational interviewing. Informational interviews involve talking to people about their careers and what they do in their jobs. It’s about gathering information about a particular department or position — it is not about asking for a job.
Benefits of informational interviewing:
- Learn about new and interesting careers.
- Gain a better understanding of a position and the work it involves.
- Clarify your career goals.
- Gain a perspective on employment trends and opportunities.
- Learn what skills are needed.
- Gather ideas for selecting relevant training courses and degree programs.
- Build your network
Requesting an Informational Interview
Developing Contacts for Informational Interviews
- Ask your network for introductions.
- Reflect on first, second or third degree contacts on LinkedIn.
- Review department websites, org charts, newsletters, etc.
- Attend networking events to establish new connections.
Asking for an Informational Interview
- Consider writing an email or a LinkedIn direct message to request an informational interview.
- State the purpose of your call by introducing yourself, and your interest in learning more about their current role, and their career journey.
- Share where they know you from, or from whom you got their name.
- Ask if they might be available for a 30 minute chat, and how they might prefer to connect (phone, Zoom, or in person).
- Provide potential times for the meeting, and encourage them to suggest a time if what you provide doesn't match their availability.
Preparing for an Informational Interview
- Know what type of information you are seeking. Prepare a list of questions. Review sample informational interviewing questions.
- Learn as much as you can ahead of time about the career, as well as the department and the role of the person you are interviewing.
- Think through what you want to say about yourself. Be ready to answer questions about your areas of interests, previous experiences and future plans. If you are unsure about your future career goals, it is alright to say you are exploring your options, but you should be able to identify some general, tentative goals.
- You may want to send a resume beforehand or have one ready in case it is requested.
Conducting an Informational Interview
- Reiterate your reasons for meeting with this person.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Do not mistake informational interviewing for job search interviewing. Do not ask for a job.
- Take brief notes during the interview and give the person you are interviewing your full attention. Do not be tied to your list of questions or your notes.
- At the end of the interview ask for additional referrals, websites or professional associations.
- Review your questions at the end of the interview to make sure you've addressed them.
- Be respectful of the interviewer’s time.
- Avoid overly personal questions.
- Do more listening than talking.
- SAMPLE INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Setting the stage/background
- How long have you been working in this field/at the university/in this department?
- How did you get into this occupation?
- What were the jobs you had previously that helped you get your current job? What steps did you take?
- What did your supervisor/employer require in terms of skills and abilities?
- What type of background was your supervisor/employer looking for?
Job search process
- How long did a job search process take for you? In what kind of job market?
- What were some of the things you learned during that process?
- What suggestions would you have for me in preparing myself for changes in my career?
Present aspects of job
What is a typical day like for you?
- What are the responsibilities of your job?
- What are the most interesting aspects of your job?
- What are the basic requirements for your job?
- What courses/training/professional organizations would you recommend in order to get into this field?
- What entry level jobs are helpful in transitioning into your occupation?
- What is the best way to transition from my current job to a job in your department/occupation?
What are the salary ranges for various jobs in this department/occupation?
What aspects of a career in this field do you consider positive or negative?
Would a person with my current background fit into this field?
What are the most common challenges in this department/occupation?
Is travel/overtime/flexible schedules a part of the work environment in this industry?
How does your job compare with others in the same department?
Who are the experts in this field? Why are they considered experts?
What professional associations are there in this industry? In your occupation?
What journals or magazines would you recommend I read?
Are there some websites that you suggest I explore?
Who else should I talk to about this occupation?
- Where do you see a job like yours leading to within the university/within your department?
Are there other areas in your industry that you find yourself interested in/that relate to your areas of expertise?
How do you see jobs in this area changing over the next few years?
What can I do to prepare myself to keep up with these changes?
It is not intended that you ask all of the above questions. Choose your questions wisely and modify them appropriately. The person you are interviewing is extending a courtesy to you, and it is best to show respect for their time and willingness to share information; informational interview typically should last no more than 30 minutes, so plan accordingly.
- If you made a commitment to send information such as an article, a reference or some other document, follow-up in a timely manner.
- Send a thank-you letter or email (see sample below) which contains:
- Appreciation for time, referrals and information.
- Compliments regarding knowledge, expertise and helpfulness.
- Use of the information or how the meeting assisted you.
- Interest in keeping in contact regarding your progress.
Thank you for taking time to meet with me last Thursday to discuss a career in [accounting]. I appreciate you being generous with your knowledge of [topic/s]. The advice and information you shared will help me … [select classes / conferences, further my website research, etc.]. I also appreciate the referral to [Josephine Bates, Director of Financial Services], and have reached out to connect with her. I will let you know how our discussion goes.
I hope to stay in touch with you and keep you posted on my career research. Thank you again for your time and valuable assistance!
Evaluating the Informational Interview
Since your main reason was information gathering, ask yourself a few questions, such as:
- Does the person I just talked with use the skills I want to use?
Would I be qualified for his/her job?
How could I become qualified?
Do I understand what the job entails?
Would I enjoy this position?
Did I get additional ideas for alternatives?
Do I have an idea about salary ranges for the job?
What impression (positive or negative) do I now have about this area of work?
Would I enjoy working for this department?
What are the goals (needs, concerns, problems, issues, etc.) of this area of work?
How can I help meet those needs? Accomplish those goals?
Which of my personal assets could I offer?
- Parnes, R. (2021, January 4). Your Guide to Informational Interviews: How to request, prepare, and follow up after informational interviews. Retrieved June 5, 2023, from https://www.linkedin.com/business/learning/blog/career-success-tips/guide-to-informational-interviews
- Knight, R. (2016, February 26). How to Get the Most Out of an Informational Interview. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved June 5, 2023, from https://hbr.org/2016/02/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-an-informational-interview