Career and Professional Development

Informational Interviews

Often, the best information about a career field comes from people who are actually working in the field. An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone working in an area that interests you who will give you information and advice. It is an effective research tool in addition to reading books, exploring the Internet and examining job descriptions. It is not a job interview, and the objective is not to find job openings.

Benefits of Informational Interviewing:

  • Get firsthand, relevant information about the realities of working within a particular field
  • Find out about career paths you did not know about
  • Get tips about how to prepare for and enter the field
  • Learn what it’s like to work for an organization
  • Gain knowledge that can help you in writing your resume or interviewing
  • Initiate a professional relationship and expand your network within the field

Tips for Informational Interviews:

  • Research Career Fields
  • Identify People to Interview
  • Prepare for the Interview
    • Develop short (20-30 second) overview/elevator speech about yourself
    • Write down open-ended questions to ask
  • Initiate Contact
    • Contact person and mention how you found his or her name
    • Emphasize you are looking for information, not job
    • Ask for a convenient time to set a 30-minute appointment to talk
    • Be ready with questions if the person says it is a good time now
  • Conduct the Informational Interview
    • Have open-end questions ready to ask
    • Listen well and take notes if you’d like
    • Respect person’s time and keep to agreed timeframe
  • Follow Up
    • Send thank you note to express appreciation of time and information given
    • Keep in touch with the person after your interaction

Informational Interview Questions:

  • What are your main responsibilities as a...?
  • What is a typical day (or week) like for you?
  • What do you like most about your work?
  • What do you like least about your work?
  • What kinds of problems do you deal with?
  • What kinds of decisions do you make?
  • How does your position fit within the organization/career field/industry?
  • How does your job affect your general lifestyle?
  • What current issues and trends in the field should I know about/be aware of?
  • What are some common career paths in this field?
  • What kinds of accomplishments tend to be valued and rewarded in this field?
  • What related fields do you think I should consider looking into?
  • How did you become interested in this field?
  • How did you begin your career?
  • How do most people get into this field? What are common entry-level jobs?
  • What steps would you recommend I take to prepare to enter this field?
  • How relevant to your work is your undergraduate major?
  • What kind of education, training, or background does your job require?
  • What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/this field?
  • What is the profile of the person most recently hired at my level?
  • What are the most effective strategies for seeking a position in this field?
  • Can you recommend trade journals, magazines or professional associations which would be helpful for my professional development?
  • If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? If not, what would you change?
  • I’ve read that the entry-level salary range for this field is usually in the range of ______? Does this fit with what you’ve seen? (Don’t ask about the person’s actual salary.)
  • What advice would you give someone who is considering this type of job (or field)?
  • Can you suggest anyone else I could contact for additional information?