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Informational Interviewing is a useful networking tool. It is an opportunity to meet people who have a career you are considering and to gain clarity on the profession.
Identifying your Contact
Finding the right person to approach for an informational interview may seem like a daunting challenge. Being referred by someone you already know is a great way to begin the process. Think about people you already know (professors, family, friends, the alumni office) and ask them if they could recommend someone for you to speak with.
If you aren’t able to find a contact through someone you already know, then finding a person to contact will require a little more research and/or creativity. Strategies include (but are not limited to):
- Reviewing the website of a targeted company and find the contact information for individuals who hold the position(s) you want to learn about.
- Contact the professional association in your field, these are large networking bodies and often have established mentoring programs.
Preparing for your Informational Interview
To make the Informational Interview a positive experience for you and the person you are meeting keep these tips in mind:
- Be respectful of the person’s time. Ask for no more than 30 minutes. And stick with your timeline!
- Make it clear that you are meeting with them to learn about them and what they do, you aren’t there asking for a job.
- Be prepared with a list of questions (see below for a list of sample questions). Consider e-mailing the list of questions prior to the appointment.
- Bring a copy of your resume. You aren’t there looking for a job, but it is possible they will want to know more about you too and it is best to be prepared.
- Ask them to recommend people in their field for you to contact.
- Follow-up with a Thank You note.
- How did you get interested in this work and how did you get hired?
- What excites or interests you the most about it?
- What do you find is the thing you like least about it?
- What skills do you need for this work?
- What is a typical day like in your work?
- How did you prepare for your job?
- If you were hiring for your job, what qualifications would you look for?
- What are the working conditions for your job (hours, dress, travel, type of supervision)?
- What kinds of challenges or problems do you have to deal with in this job?
- What is the entry-level pay for this occupation?
- What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about pursuing this occupation?
- Two additional questions specific to the occupation.
- Would you please recommend 2 other people I could contact? (Always ask for more than one name in case the first one doesn’t work out.)
The student follows an employer for one or more days to learn about a particular occupation or industry without actually being involved in hands-on activities. They are able to witness a variety of tasks and learn about the educational requirements associated with the career. This work-based experience gives the student a realistic idea of whether or not they are truly comfortable with their particular career interest.
The visitor should interview the workplace host using prepared interview questions.
- The visitor should receive a thorough tour of the workplace to gain an understanding of the type of career being explored.
- The visitor should be introduced to key employees and informed of their roles and responsibilities in the organization as well as their educational backgrounds.
- The student should write a thank you letter to the host and other key people.