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 within a particular field, industry or position. This kind of information is not always available online.
- Find out about career paths you did not know existed.
- Get tips about how to prepare for and enter a given career.
- Learn what it’s like to work at a specific organization.
- Gain insider knowledge that can help you in writing your resume, interviewing, and more.
- Initiate a professional relationship and expand your network of contacts in a specific career field; meet people who may forward job leads to you in the future.
Six Steps for Informational Interviewing
Research Career Fields
Do some initial research on the career field or employer using internet and print resources.
Identify People to Interview
- Pursue your own contacts. People you already know, even if they are not in fields of interest to you, can lead you to people who are. This includes family, friends, teaching assistants, professors and former employers. Don't forget roommates and classmates and their family and friends.
- Identify names of LMU alumni. LMU graduates will often take a special interest in LMU students. Utilize LinkedIn to find them.
- Utilize directories, other print resources or through company website links and staff listing
- Contact members of professional or trade associations.
- Attend CPD Events (information sessions, career expos, etc.)
Prepare for the Interview
- Develop a brief introduction of yourself and your hopes for the meeting.
- Plan open-ended questions to ask.
- Contact the person by phone or email.
- 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 20-30 minute appointment.
- Be ready to ask questions on the spot if the person says it is a good time for him/her and that s/he won’t be readily available otherwise.
Conduct the Informational Interview
- Dress neatly and appropriately, as you would for a job interview.
- Arrive on time or a few minutes early.
- Start by thanking your contact for taking the time to meet with you.
- 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.
- Be prepared to direct the interview, but also let the conversation flow naturally, and encourage the interviewee to do most of the talking.
- Take notes if you'd like.
- Respect the person's time. Keep the meeting length within the agreed-upon timeframe.
- Ask the person if you may contact them again in the future with other questions.
- Ask for names of other people to meet so as to gain different perspectives.
Note: You can bring a resume, but do not take it out right away or your interviewee may think you are actually fishing for a job. 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. Right after the interview write down what you learned, what more you'd like to know and your impressions of how this industry, field or position would fit with your lifestyle, interests, skills and future 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, especially if you had a particularly nice interaction; let him or her know that you followed up on their advice and how things are going as a result. This relationship could become an important part of your network.