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The Informational Interview

Informational interviews give you the opportunity to learn about careers with a specific company or in a particular industry. The purpose of informational interviews is to learn as much as possible about the interviewee’s background, career path, and current position – the purpose is not to secure a job or market yourself to the interviewee. By gathering information about one person’s career experience, you can better plan for your own career. Here are some of the ways to set up and conduct successful informational interviews.

To prepare, find out as much information as you can about the interviewee, the professional whom you will be interviewing. Visit their professional networks, such as LinkedIn, and talk with the person who gave you their contact information. The more you know about the interviewee and their professional background, the more prepared you will be during the interview. Next, contact your potential interviewee via email or phone. It is important to clearly describe who you are, how you know about them, and what you are requesting. If you omit any of this information, the recipient of your email will be confused. Once you have scheduled a date, time, and place, make sure to confirm these with the interviewee at least 24 hours in advance.

Now you are ready to conduct the informational interview! If you are meeting the interviewee face to face, dress professionally and arrive early at your destination. Make sure you sit in a quiet spot and, if you are meeting in a restaurant or coffee shop, offer to buy the interviewee a meal or drink. Upon meeting, thank them for their time and consideration and briefly reiterate who you are, how you received their contact information, and what you are hoping to accomplish during the interview. Ask the interviewee questions about their education, career path, job responsibilities, and anything else you want to know. Inquire if there is anyone they know or work with who may also be interested in speaking with you. At the end of the interview, ask for their business card and offer them your resume. Out of respect for the interviewee’s time, aim to keep the interview as short as possible, somewhere around thirty minutes. Finally, thank both the interviewee and the person who referred them to you for their help in making the interview a possibility. Don’t forget to take notes during the interview or to jot down what you learned shortly thereafter.
Now that you have completed the informational interview, consider whether or not this job or industry seems like a good fit for your skills and interests. If it does, try to meet with other people who have a similar position in the same field. If it does not interest you, be grateful for this experience that allowed you to identify a career path that you do not want to pursue. Hold on to the interviewee’s contact information in case the need arises to reach out to them again in the future.
In addition to learning more about certain careers, informational interviews are a great way to become more comfortable with the interviewing process. In this case, you are the interviewer, asking questions and drawing conclusions from the information you learn. During your next job interview when you are the interviewee, you can put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and understand their perspective a bit more. Thus, there are many benefits to informational interviews. Reach out to family, friends, and the Career Center today to see if you can schedule an informational interview to connect with new contacts!