Whether you’re exploring different career fields or you already know what you want to do post-graduation, informational interviewing is helpful at any stage of the career development cycle. These interviews provide an opportunity to gather advice and/or information about a career field, company or position and make new contacts for your professional network.
Here’s how to set up and conduct an informational interview:
1. Identify Someone to Interview
Look at your network: family, friends, professors, advisors and alumni. Get the correct spelling and pronunciation of the contact’s name and also their job title and salutation (Dr., Mr., Ms., etc.).
Call for an appointment or write an email to request one. Make sure to offer a personal introduction. State the reason you are contacting them, how much time you’re asking for (20-30 minutes is typical), why you would specifically like to speak with them (interest in their career field, etc.), and explain how you found their name and information.
Be prepared to adjust your schedule, when you’re asking for a favor you always want to make it as convenient as possible for the other person.
Be sure you have agreed on the date and place of your meeting, send a confirmation email after identifying this information to serve as a reminder for you both.
Learn about their career field prior to the interview so you are knowledgeable and can add to the conversation. Use our industry guides and the VAULT Industry Research resource via SpiderConnect. Also do research on the organization.
Prepare a list of 8-10 relevant questions to ask them. Start with these but the conversation may branch out. Prepare your resume and take a copy with you in case you are asked for it, but be aware that it could be inappropriate to offer it during the meeting. Be prepared to lead the conversation since you’re the interviewer.
7. Appearance & Arrival
Plan what you will wear (dress as if you were working at their organization or even interviewing) and how long it will take you to get there. Arrive 10-15 minutes early.
8. Thank You
Ask for their business card and about other contacts in the field before you leave. Send a short note thanking the person for their time. Remember that these contacts can continue to serve as resources so keep in touch.
Check out this tip sheet for some potential questions you can ask during an informational interview. If you’d like some assistance with this process, make an appointment with a career advisor. Walk in hours are 2-4pm daily and appointments can be scheduled through coming by the office or calling (804) 289-8547.