Informational Interview

Informational Interviewing is a form of Networking that gives you access and knowledge into a certain career field or industry.  Additionally, you will be establishing a contact for later reference if needed.  These people can also serve as career mentors as you ponder career choices.

Step 1:  Identify an individual and organization that you wish to learn more about.  Here are some quick points on how to get started:

  • To find a contact, go through the school recruiting system and review company websites to spark interests, call to find out if a department exists and ask for the manager over that department.  Let them know you are attending school and that you seek to gain more information about the industry, company and type of positions.  Ask them if you may come visit their company location for 30-45 minutes.  An in-person informational interview will gain you more information than just emailing.  This will also allow you to see the workplace and get a sense of the culture and mission.

Step 2:  Prepare for and conduct the Informational Interview.  Just like a real interview you should prepare:

  • Dress appropriately.  Even though this is not a real job interview, you should try to make a good first impression.  Opportunities may present themselves and first impressions can mean everything.
  • Arrive early.  You requested this session and your promptness is important.
  • Prepare your informational gathering questions and be ready to take notes.
  • Keep to the time you allotted unless they tell you it is okay to run over.  Keep an eye on their “unspoken actions.”
  • You can ask the interviewee if they know anyone else that holds a similar position with whom you could meet.  This will give you additional resources of information for the position you are considering.

Step 3:  Ask for a resume critique if the meeting went well.  This is an opportunity for the employer to see what you have to offer and they may keep a copy of your resume for reference so take more than one copy.  They may also share a few resume tricks that are industry or career related.

Step 4:  Send a Thank you Note within 24 hours.  This serves as a great reinforcement to build your new relationship.

Step 5:  Follow up.  If the company expresses that they hire interns or graduates then follow up with them when you are beginning to look for internships or full-time positions.

Here are questions you can ask an employer to get you started.  You’ll develop your own more defined list as you start doing more informational interviews:

  • What kind of education or certification did you receive prior to this position?
  • Give me an idea of what a day in the life of your position entails?
  • Job description and other companies similar in nature to the one they work for.
  • What are the hiring trends like in this field and are there any suggestions you would make to get into this industry or career field?
  • How important is an internship or experience prior to graduation?
  • Are there internships or volunteer positions available in this organization?  If so can I provide a resume?
  • Does your company offer “job shadowing” experiences?
  • Do you ever have project work that you just can not get to?  Have you ever considered bringing someone in on the side or maybe even a student intern to complete such projects?  Reminder:  Relax, you are there to gain information and when you do an informational interview in person, you can adjust your questions as needed.  Practice your communication and listening skills while doing these sessions.  You are there to learn and this person could make a good career mentor.