A Guide to Informational Interviewing

Nov 23, 2018
photo of a job interview

A great way to network is to ask someone for an informational interview. This person could be someone who you’ve never met or it could be a friend or family member. Most people are happy to give informational interviews because the expectations are different from a job interview. Making a connection with a person can open doors later in life for future job positions. Here is a guide to help you approach someone for an informational interview.

In order to make this kind of interview work for you, follow this guiding principle: Never ask for a job. Always ask for information, advice, and referrals. 

Start with friends, parents, professors, alumni, etc. While these people may not have a current job opening in your area of interest, they do have important resources (information, advice, and networks) relevant to your job search. Make a positive and professional first impression (show up early, dressed professionally, notepad in hand). Keep the interview brief: 20-30 minutes at most. When you get a lead, show that you appreciate it by following up on it in a timely manner. Research the person, the company, and make a list of questions before the meeting. Always send a thank you letter after an interview. Keep in touch with your new contact via email or LinkedIn – that’s how you maintain the network you’re building. 
  
Formulating Questions

You are the interviewer. Consider asking these questions to gather helpful info:
 
Career Specific 
• Describe your career path. How did each job lead you to the next? 
• How did you decide to pursue this path? 
• How did you find this particular job? 
• What is the employment outlook in your field? 
• Could you describe a typical day? 
• What parts of your job do you find challenging? 
• What do you find most enjoyable? 
• Is there a busy season for this career? 

Responsibilities 
• What are your responsibilities? 
• How would you describe your work environment? 
• What are the job duties/titles of your coworkers? 

Industry Questions 
• What future opportunities are there in this field? 
• Why do people leave this field or company? 
• Who are the current important people in this field? 

Training and Preparation 
• What educational preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to advance in this field? 
• What type of skills and knowledge are needed to perform in this career? 
• How do most people enter this profession? 
• What types of positions would I qualify for based on my education and experience? 
• What do you think of my resume? 
• Do you have any suggestions regarding specific experiences I should seek for improvement? 
• How can students find summer opportunities in this field? 
• What advice do you have for those preparing to enter this field? 
• How would I best acquire the skills necessary for this job? 
• Do you know of other professionals with whom I might speak for more information about this field? When I call, can I use your name?

These questions will show that you are prepared for the informational interview and that you take it seriously. If you have a business card, you can give it to the person so they remember you if a job opens up in their company that might be a good fit for you.  
 

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