Informational Interview

One way to begin building your network is by conducting informational interviews (career conversations). Informational interviews are brief meetings with people who are established in a particular career field. The interviews are a learning opportunity for you to ask their perspective on their job, the company, the future of the field, and how they grew to where they are today. This interview can be conducted either in person, online, or by phone. In either case, ask the individual you are contacting if you may visit with them for a specific period for an informational interview.

Note that you are not asking for a job interview nor are you asking for a job in the future. The objective is to obtain information that may be useful for you in making decisions involved in your career planning and in the job search process. People are usually very open to speaking with students who are approaching the job market and are eager to pass on advice. Don’t be shy about reaching out, but keep in mind a few general rules:

General Etiquette

  • Know your audience (recruiters, alumni). This will help determine how to tailor your approach.
  • Know the appropriate method of communication (email, phone, or online networking).
  • Always answer these key questions: Who are you, and what is the purpose of this communication?

Interview Formats

  • Email/Online Messaging Format

    Subject Line

    Use a subject line that makes a connection. If you don’t include a subject line and the individual does not recognize your name, it is likely that your message will be deleted before it is read.

    Introduction

    State your name, school, year, major, and how you received their information.

    Body

    This should be the goal of your email.

    • “I’m interested in learning more about ______ industry/company.”
    • “I’m looking for opportunities to network with experts in the industry.”
    • “______ recommended I contact you and speak with you briefly to learn more about ______.”
    • Set up the phone call/meeting: “I’d love the opportunity to speak with you for 15-20 minutes and learn more about ______. Is there a good time within the next few weeks that I can schedule a call or meeting with you?”

    Closing

    Thank them for their time.

    After successfully setting up a meeting, develop an agenda with specific questions you want to ask. For example:

    • How did you get started at this company or in this field?
    • What kinds of schooling and/or experiences are necessary to be successful?
    • What do you find most rewarding about this work?
    • What advice do you have for making the most of my time at IU?
    • Is there anyone else that you recommend I should meet with to gain more perspective?
  • Phone Call/Meeting Format

    Introduction

    State your name, school, year, major, and how you received their information.

    • “Is this a good time to talk?”

    Body

    This should be the goal of your call.

    • “What advice do you have for someone in my position?”
    • “Why do you like working in the ______ industry/company?”
    • “I’ve had exposure to ______ through my ______ course OR internship at ______. Do you have any advice regarding other related areas I should learn about?”

    Closing

    Ask for referrals or about openings with their company. Send them your resume.

    • “Is it okay if keep in touch every few months with you?” (This depends on your level of rapport.)

Things to remember:

  • They are doing you a favor, so work around what is convenient for their schedule and remember to remain respectful of their time.
  • The informational interview is about getting information about a career and industry, not about getting a job, so do your research on the industry before the interview and set an agenda.
  • You are building a professional relationship, so be polite and courteous.
  • Send a thank you email 24-48 hours after the informational interview.