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Informational Interviews


An informational interview is brief meeting with someone in a profession or an organization you want to explore. (Note that it's NOT an interview in which you seek a job.) Informational interviews can be extremely valuable.

1. How to Find People to Interview
2. How to Request an Interview
3. General Tips
4. What to Ask at the Interview

An informational interview allows you to do the following:
  • Explore a specific industry, field, organization and/or position. Assess whether it's a good fit for your skills, personality and career goals.
  • If you already know the field or organization is a good fit for you, do an informational interview to network and gather more information about that field/organization.
  • Observe and get a feel for different work environments.
  • Connect with professionals who may have tips about future job or internship opportunities.
  • Develop the social skills you'll need in professional interactions.
Remember that you shouldn't use an informational interviews as a way to apply for a specific job or internship opening. You can ask about overall opportunities in that organization or profession, but don't ask for a job.

If you aren't able to do a face-to-face interview, you can also do an informational interview by phone or by email, but this isn't ideal. You'll miss out on seeing the organization first-hand and networking in person.



1. How to Find People to Interview

People are usually very willing to talk to you. The easiest way to begin this process is to start with someone you know, or someone a friend, relative or professor knows. Below are other places to find names for interviews:

-friends/family/neighbors
-professors/advisors
-current/former bosses
-conferences/workshops
-the yellow pages
-company websites
-student clubs
-professional journals
-professional associations
-industry directories
-service organizations
-college career offices
-alumni groups
-magazine articles
-social sites (Facebook)
-former teachers
-coaches

You can also call the main phone number at an organization you're interested in. Ask who you could talk to about your career area. Be prepared to explain your objective to help locate the appropriate person.



2. How to Request an Informational Interview

After you've found someone you want to talk to, contact that person to request a brief interview. You can call, or send an email or letter. Usually you'll ask to meet for 20 to 30 minutes. Include the below information in your initial contact:

  • Your first and last name
  • How you got his or her name
  • A brief summary about yourself (2 or 3 sentences is plenty)
  • The fact that you're contacting the person for an informational interview
  • Your phone number and email address (if you leave a message, say your name and number slowly)
Sample Phone Scripts:

IF THE INTERVIEW IS FOR CAREER EXPLORATION:
Hello Ms. Olmos. My name is Lee Douglas and I'm a student at the University of Minnesota. I received your name from Professor Chris Jones. I'm doing some career research in the field of advertising, which I'm thinking about pursuing after school. I'm hoping you could meet with me for 20 or 30 minutes for an informational interview to discuss the field. If that would be possible, please let me know when that might be convenient for you. My name again is Lee Douglas, and I can be reached at 612-123-4567 or ldouglas@gmail.com.

IF THE INTERVIEW IS TO NETWORK:
Hello Ms. Olmos. My name is Lee Douglas and I'm a senior at the University of Minnesota. I am beginning my job search and I'm hoping to conduct informational interviews with professionals in the field of advertising. My goals in meeting with you would be to gain your perspectives about the field, and perhaps referrals to others in your network. If you could meet with me for 20 or 30 minutes, please let me know when that might be convenient for you. My name again is Lee Douglas, and I can be reached at 612-123-4567 or ldouglas@gmail.com.



3. Tips for the Interview

  • Be flexible. Work around your contact's busy schedule when arranging a date and time to meet.
  • Research the occupation/organization ahead of time, so you can develop thoughtful questions.
  • Dress professionally. Formal clothes aren't necessary (like suit, tie, dress), but avoid jeans, shorts, etc.
  • Arrive 5 to 10 minutes early.
  • Bring a list of questions you want to ask. (Don't forget a notebook and pen to take notes.)
  • Ask for additional names of people you can contact, and ask if you can use this contact as a referral.
  • Before you leave, be sure to ask for the person's business card, so you have accurate name, title and address information.
  • After the interview, send a thank-you note. Do this within 24 to 48 hours of meeting.
It may be appropriate to bring your resume to the informational interview. This is NOT to apply for a job, but in case you want to request feedback about your resume. You could also ask the person to pass it along to others if appropriate. Another option is to send your resume along with your thank-you note after the interview. (You can say something like, "I've included my resume in case opportunities come up in the future.") Tailor your resume to the specific company as much as possible.


4. What to Ask at the Informational Interview

Below are a few sample questions. You'll likely have lots of your own questions too. Be sure to think this through in advance so you know what to ask. Don't forget to bring your list of questions with you if you prepare one.

Questions about the Organization/Company:
  • How would you summarize what your organization does? How is it unique from your competitors?
  • What does your company look for when recruiting people?
  • What other types of positions in this field are available in your company/organization?
  • How has the company grown and what are its strategies for future growth?
  • How would you characterize the culture of this organization and/or your department? For example, would you describe your position as closely supervised? Is this a high-pressure organization?
  • What is the dress code here?
  • What is turnover like in this organization? Why do you think people stay or leave?
Questions about the Field or Position:
  • What background is necessary or helpful for this position? For example, are there any particular educational or training programs required or recommended for this position?
  • What are the best ways to enter this field? What are the best ways to learn about specific job openings?
  • What are the five most important skills or traits for a person going into this field to have?
  • What are some of the current trends or changes in this field? What about challenges or controversies?
  • Can you suggest professional publications and associations related to your field?
  • What are your job responsibilities? What do you do in a typical day or week?
  • What is the employment outlook for this field, nationally and locally? Is demand increasing or decreasing?
  • What is a typical salary range for this position? How does this vary by setting?
  • Does this position go by any other titles in other organizations?
  • What are typical career paths for people in this field?
  • Does this type of position typically involve a lot of team projects, or do you work indepedently?
Personal Info
  • How did you become interested in this field?
  • What are the most and least satisfying aspects of your work? What would you change?
  • What experiences in your background have contributed to your success in this career? What would you have done differently?
  • If this job or field were to become obsolete, in what other kinds of jobs could you apply your skills?
Additional Contacts
  • Can you suggest other companies where I might want to contact people?
  • Can you suggest other people I might meet with to gain additional perspectives about this career, or about future job or internship opportunities?