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Informational Interviews

Informational interviews can be a great job-hunting resource. They are like job interviews except you ask all the questions about an occupation, not a specific job opening. You have two goals during this interview. The first is to learn about the occupation to see if it might suit you. The second is to establish a connection with the person you’re interviewing.

Informational interviews can lead to job search suggestions, company contacts, and even job offers!

Benefits

Informational interviews provide many benefits to help you.

  • Make a contact—a connection with someone.
  • Learn more about the company, industry, and job.
  • Gain confidence as you practice your interviewing skills.
  • Possibly learn about “hidden” (unadvertised) jobs or internships.

Who to Ask

Interviews take time, so target only individuals who have occupations you really want to pursue.

You might ask:

  • Friends, family, neighbors, supervisors, coworkers, and anyone they know.
  • People listed in the yellow pages or association directories.

Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines for the interview:

  • Interview three people for each occupation of interest.
  • When you call, say how you got that person’s name. 
  • Explain that you’re seeking information and guidance. 
  • Ask to meet for 20 minutes and stick to it (wear a watch). 
  • Bring paper and pen with you and take notes. 
  • Research the occupations and organization beforehand as you would for a job interview. 
  • Dress and act as you would at a job interview. 
  • DON’T ask the person for a job in any way.

Questions to Ask

Since you probably don’t have much time, pick only a few important questions to ask.

Here are some ideas:

  • How did you get into this type of work? This job?
  • What type of preparation/education/training did you have? What is required? 
  • What do you enjoy the most? The least? 
  • What three skills do you use most often? 
  • Describe a typical day or week. 
  • What motivates you? 
  • Describe difficulties you regularly face on the job. 
  • What are the advancement opportunities and limits? 
  • How does a person usually progress in this field? 
  • What must a person know to stay competitive? 
  • What’s the economic outlook for this career?
  • How does your job affect your home life? 
  • What are typical entry-level job titles and duties?
  • How do you suggest I learn more about this field?
  • Here are my strengths. How do they fit in this field?

Afterward

When your scheduled time is almost up, end the interview. Here are some important tips for ending your interview.

  • Thank the person before you leave.
  • Ask for referrals to others who might be available for an informational interview. 
  • Ask for the person’s business card. 
  • Immediately send a thank you note. 
  • Evaluate how well you conducted the interview. 
  • Decide how to weigh what the interviewee said. Take what you heard with a grain of salt and trust your own judgment. 
  • Review the notes you took and decide on your next step. 
  • When you eventually do get a job, tell your interviewees about it—they’ll want to know how your search ended!