Informational interviews are conversations with experienced professionals about their jobs, professional development, and career advice. They give you the opportunity to ask meaningful questions to individuals with the first-hand experience in the industries and companies you are interested in.
Why are informational interviews important?
It is helpful to learn from professionals who have gone through the process of finding a job and have experience working in your field of interest. They can be helpful resources as you begin planning your post-graduation life. Informational interviews may also give you insider information on tips, tricks, and guidance for obtaining your dream job. Instead of considering an informational interview as a way to secure a job offer, use it as a learning experience that may be a stepping stone in your career as you gather more information.
Who do you contact for informational interviews?
There are several ways to tap into your network to find people for informational interviews.
Option 1: Friends
If you know someone from childhood, high school, or college who has a job you find interesting, reach out! Talking to friends is the easiest and most comfortable way to have an informational interview. If you’ve never done one before, it might be helpful to start off talking with a friend about their job until you become comfortable with approaching someone you don’t know as well.
Option 2: Your College/Alumni Network
Many colleges and universities have online networks where alumni have opted to provide their personal contact information to students of their alma mater. Although it can be slightly nerve-wracking to email a stranger, most alumni are very open to talking with current students about their careers. At the very least, you are connected by the same school, which is a great way to start a conversation! Not sure what resources your campus offers? Contact your career center to find out what’s available.
Option 3: LinkedIn
Your online professional network can be another great resource to ask people about their jobs. Feel free to refer back to our previous LinkedIn blog post if you need tips on how to continue to build your stellar LinkedIn profile. Use your profile to connect with people from companies or organizations you are interested in and see if you can set up a time to speak with them.
Option 4: Networking Events
Attend events on campus or in your city that promote career development. Most college career centers will host events that bring together people from various industries to talk about their jobs. Use these opportunities to connect one-on-one. Many larger cities also provide networking groups in specific industries and interests. Consider joining one to meet new people and increase your exposure to the field.
How do you request an informational interview?
Step 1: Initial Contact
Usually, the best way to contact someone (especially if they do not know you) is through email, unless otherwise stated. Write a well thought-out email reminding them who you are or letting them know how you came across their information. Explain why you are interested in learning more about their work and kindly ask if they would be available to speak to you about their job, career path, etc. Attach your resume and LinkedIn profile to your email so they can learn more about you.
Below is a sample introductory email. Feel free to use this as a guide, but remember to personalize it to reflect your interest and personality.
I am . I came across your contact information on . I see that you are working at . I have heard wonderful things about , and I am impressed by your work. I am personally interested in .
If you are available, I would very much appreciate the opportunity to speak with you over email, phone, or in person about your experience working at and your views on . I am available. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Step 2: Scheduling
When setting up a time to talk, be flexible about the time and place. Remember that your interviewers are helping you by sharing their experience, so try to schedule a call or meeting that works best for their schedule.
Step 3: Preparation
Research the interviewer, company, and industry. You want to be knowledgeable about the field so you can initiate an engaging discussion. Instead of asking several simple questions, find a common ground and try to excite them with your interests. Think of it more as a conversation instead of an interview. You want to show you are intelligent, interesting, and likable. However, try not to improvise. Have a strong list of questions and consider what you would want to learn from the person about their career, industry, etc.
What if they say no? Or, I don’t receive a reply?
If the person you contact is not interested, kindly thank them for their response and do not contact them again. If they do not initially respond, you can send them a reminder email 10-14 days later (make sure to include/forward the content of your original email so they know what you are reminding them about). If they do not respond after your reminder, move on and try connecting with someone else. Do not feel bad if you get a couple of “no” responses. People are busy, and it’s nothing personal.
What questions do I ask?
There are an infinite number of questions you can ask, so think about what you want to gain from this interview. Do you want to learn more about their company? The industry? Day-to-day work? How they got where they are today? Tips for success in the working world? It’s all up to you! Remember that this interview is a time to learn more about their work – not a time to ask for a job or recommendation.
Here are some questions to consider:
How did you get to where you are today in your career?
Why did you decide to work for your company?
What is the best and worst thing about your job?
How would you describe the company culture?
What does a typical work week look like?
Is there anything you wished you knew before starting off in this field?
In what ways do you think the industry is changing?
Do you enjoy living/working in the city you are based in?
What does your company look for in a strong applicant?
What advice do you have for someone in my position aspiring to attain your level of expertise?
When generating your own questions, it is helpful to be professional, thoughtful, and sincere. Although you are the one controlling the conversation, you still want to demonstrate that you are smart and care about what the person has to say. Try to create a dialogue rather than a question and answer interview.
What are the next steps?
Send a thank you email no more than 24 hours after the informational interview. Let them know you appreciate their time and highlight some of the things you learned from the conversation. It is important to keep in touch with your contacts. If you feel you’ve developed a good rapport with the interviewer, and if they’ve left the door open for future communication, don’t be afraid to contact them every couple of months. Send them an email with a news article or some new knowledge you came across that you think they may find interesting. It is important to remind them of your presence so if they learn of a possible job or internship, you are the first person they think of.
Informational interviews don’t always lead to a job offer, but you never know where they could take you in the future. Your interviewer might teach you about their industry, give you tips on how to apply for jobs, refer you to new contacts, or serve as your mentor. There are many benefits of informational interviews—all you have to do is ask!