Getting your toes wet

An informational interview is a brief meeting with someone who works in a field or at an organization that you find intriguing and want to learn more about. The informational interview is not an actual job interview. In fact, the roles are reversed and you get to ask the questions and run the discussion.

In an information interview, you can:

  • Explore careers to focus your thinking and decision-making
  • Learn about different fields of work in an experiential way
  • Practice having conversations with new people in a variety of environments and bolster your confidence
  • Expand your knowledge base and learn the language used in various occupations
  • Add to your list of networking contacts
  • Happen upon not-yet-posted open positions

Steps To Arrange and Conduct an Informational Interview:

  1. Contact the Individual

    Call or email the individual you want to speak with and let them know that you’d like to schedule an informational interview. Stress that you are not asking for a job, but simply gathering information and trying to learn about a particular field or line of work. Ask for 20 to 30 minutes.

  2. Prepare for Interview

    Spend some time thinking about what you’d like to learn from the conversation. Write down the questions you plan to ask and the topics you’d like to discuss.

  3. Enjoy the Conversation

    Remember, you are not being interviewed, so relax and enjoy the conversation. Do your best listening. Feel free to take notes.

  4. Establish Agenda and Timeframe

    Stick to the agenda and honor the timeframe. If you said a half hour, end on time. You can always set up another meeting down the road. Also, there will be a strong temptation, especially if the conversation goes well, to ask about job openings. Don’t do it! Asking will torpedo the entire meeting and make you look desperate. If they bring it up, fine.

  5. Thank the Individual

    Thank the person profusely for their time and information. Follow up by sending a thank-you note.

Questions You Might Want To Ask:

  • How did you become interested in this field?
  • How did you get started in this field/at this company?
  • What do you like most about your work?
  • What are the most important duties of this position?
  • What is a typical workday or week like?
  • What strengths and skills are needed for a person to be successful in this field?
  • How would you describe your company's organizational culture?
  • What are some major challenges and opportunities facing this corporation?
  • How can I learn more about this line of work?
  • What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing work in this field?
  • What are some of the other types of positions in this field/industry?
  • Think of some other good questions. What do you want to know?