An informational interview* is a meeting designed to help you learn more about a career field you find interesting. To conduct an informational interview, you will meet with a professional who works in the career field of interest and ask questions about the professional's career. This allows you to get the inside scoop on the profession.
If you are interested in conducting an informational interview, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Select a career field
Choose a career field you want to learn more about. It can be one of several career fields you are considering or it can be a profession you have already selected and plan to enter. No matter what stage of career planning you are in, conducting an informational interview can be helpful.
Step 2: Find potential professionals to interview
Search for people who work in the profession you have chosen. There are many places you can search for a potential professional to interview. You can ask friends, family, professors, or campus staff members if they have any contacts who work in your field of interest. Professionals can also be found through professional organizations and networking websites. Some colleges have specific programs to introduce students to alumni as well.
Step 3: Schedule the interview
Try to make a list of several potential professionals to interview, rank them in order of which professional you would most like to interview. You can base the order on how closely their job is related to a job you would most like to enter, if you know someone in common, their location, or any criterion that you choose.
Once you have selected the professional that you would most like to interview, simply call or email that person to see ask if he or she is willing to participate in an informational interview. When you contact the professional, explain that you are a student who is looking to get an insider's perspective about the job field and request to set up a time to discuss their views. (Modified versions of the information interview can be conducted over the phone; by email; or a video chat application, such as Skype.)
Most professionals are quite receptive to requests for informational interviews. Many professionals are flattered that you are interested in their career and that you are looking to them for advice. However, not all professionals will accept your request. The professional might be too busy or have had a bad experience with a previous informational interview. If the professional you contact declines your request, politely thank them for their time. Then ask the next professional on your list.
Step 4: Create a list of potential questions
Make a list of the questions you would like to ask the professional. The questions you select will depend on your level of career decidedness and how close you are to graduation.
Before completing the list of questions, research the field so that you can make sure spend your time with the professional wisely. You do not want to waste time asking a lot of questions you could easily answer through research (Although, it may be a good idea to verify that the information you gathered from your research is correct.)
Ask your questions in order of what you most want to know. This will ensure you learn what you most want to know if the interview gets cut short unexpededly.
Step 5: Conduct the interview
Stay focused on the professional and the questions from your list. Even if the professional takes phone calls during the interview, your phone should be off. If the professional is at work, remember that he or she may need to be available for colleagues and clients.
At the end of the interviewer, thank the professional and offer a firm handshake. Ask the professional for his or her business card. Use the information from the card to send a thank you note after the interview. Save the card because the professional might become an important business contact for you in the future.
Step 6: Thank the professional
Send a thank you message to the professional by email no later than one day following the interview. If you like, you can also follow your thank you email message with a note card or a more formal thank you letter. Be sure that all messages you send are well written and professional. Include your contact information on the correspondences in case they would like to reach you in the future.
Informational interviews are a great way for you to gain an insider's perspective about a career field that interests you. They also can help you gain important business contacts.
*Other terms used for this type of interview include occupational information interview and information interview