Who Should I Interview
Consider asking for an interview with someone in your industry, field or a company that interests you. Ideally, you want to meet someone working in your dream role at your dream company. You might consider reaching out to someone who:
Works at a company where you may seek employment
Has experience in your career path or industry
Attends a university where you may seek admission
Teaches higher education programs related to your career interests
Holds certifications or credentials that youre interested in pursuing
Has an education or professional background similar to what you have
Once you decide who you want to ask for an interview, do your research to find out more about them.
Whom To Ask For An Informational Interview
Ask to talk to people whove been in your shoes, Weiss recommends. They can speak from experience and in detail, including how they ended up in a particular field or company, the steps on their career path, and the skills and education they needed to get where they are.
Weiss and others suggest reaching out to people you know, rather than strangers or at the very least people with whom you have a connection. For instance, you went to the same college or share a few close business acquaintances. Theyre more likely to agree to give you their time.
If you are interested in a role at a particular company, look for people who are in your dream role at that company. Theyve already navigated the process and can share their experience. Former employees can also share insight, and might be more honest about their experiences with the company.
How To Ask For An Informational Interview
To perform an informational interview, you will need to find a professional who works in the field or at the company you’re considering. Here are some steps for setting up an informational interview:
Create a list of all the major businesses in the industry you want to pursue.
Ask people within your own network of colleagues, mentors, former teachers or classmates if they know anyone in the role you want to learn more about.
If no one you know has any contacts, try contacting the recruiting departments of the companies on your list. Ask them if they can put you in touch with someone who works in the role you’re interested in.
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Contact People For An Interview
You can ask people for an informational interview through emails, letters, calls or in-person. Your message can be somewhat informal when you contact your friends. Otherwise, keep it polite and professional. Always proofread it to ensure it is error-free. Here are six tips to writing a compelling message:
Write “informational interview request” in the subject line
Explain how you found the contact and the reason for the interview
Ask how much time the person can dedicate to you
Propose two alternative dates and times
Thank the person politely
Gain Insight About The Job Market
Depending on where they are in their career, your interviewee may have a good amount of insight on the kinds of jobs within it – including how many there are, how competitive they are to get, and how to best prepare yourself for them. They can also speak to current trends in that career, and what direction they foresee the industry at large heading toward. Learning this kind of information from your interviewee can open you up to new career pathways that you might not have known before.
The person you are interviewing might also be open to sharing tips on what kinds of experience and skills help land people jobs at their company, or be willing to keep their eyes open for potential opportunities in the future.
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Explore New Career Opportunities
When conducting an informational interview, you can gather useful inside information about specific companies and an industry as a whole that you might not have been able to learn online. Being able to speak with someone who is already established at a company or career of interest to you will help you determine if it will be a good fit for you.
Learn About The Jobs Demands And Decide If You Can Realistically Meet Them
One of the best ways to learn about the actual demands of a job is to talk to people who do it. Ideally, you would meet them at work so you can observe their physical work environment and learn how the job fits into it. Try to get a detailed understanding of what a job entails. Then, after you assess your work ability, you can decide if you can meet the jobs demands.
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Identify People To Contact
- Find someone to contact. It could be any person working in the field in which you’re interested.
- Places to begin your search include:
- Social Media
- Friends and family members
- Current and previous professors and instructors
- Professional Associations related to your occupation. For a list of associations try looking at the CA Career Cafe Association Database. You can also Google your career title + “professional association” + your city, for example “nursing professional association Los Angeles”
- SMC alumni to contact they often take a special interest in “giving back” to SMC students. Utilize the SMC alumni network and LinkedIn to find them.
What Is An Informational Interview
An informational interview refers to a casual conversation between a job applicant and someone who works at a company that they want to be a part of. It is usually the result of a successful networking opportunity, allowing you to learn more about a particular job and company from someone who is already working in the industry.
As a job applicant, it is advantageous to know a bit more about a company. Whether it may be to prepare you for a job interview better or to see if the office culture is suitable for you, knowing more relevant information about what its like to work in a particular company can result in having a significant impact on your application.
The informational interview provides information that can also help you determine what opportunities are available. It may be a casual conversation, but if you handle it correctly, you may be one step closer to the job that you want.
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Prepare A List Of Informational Interview Questions
Prepare interview questions ahead of time. Make sure each question is open-ended and covers something you may not be able to find out on your own. Dont worry about having them all memorized, either. Remember, informational interviews are often less formal, and no one expects a robot.
When formulating your questions, keep in mind that the goal of an informational interview is to gather insight and not to get a job offer. So while that could be a delightful bonus, your questions should be curated with this intent in mind.
Heres a list of 14 sample list of questions to get you started:
- Howd you get into this line of work?
- How can I get into this line of work?
- What do you enjoy most about your job?
- What do you find the most meaningful about your work?
- How much autonomy and creativity would I have in this role?
Connect With Employers And Potentially Find Employment
Informational interviews are a highly effective way to build relationships and expand your professional network. Over 80% of jobs are found through these networks. Although it is not acceptable to ask for a job at an informational interview, you can make a good connection and first impression. The connection may lead to a job interview or to another connection that may result in a job. An informational interview feels less pressured than a job interview, and you are free to ask questions you might not otherwise ask. Topics might include, for example, flexible hours, likes and dislikes about a job, or what happens in a typical day. An employer may be more candid than in a job interview. For example, they may tell you what they would like in a candidate and about future job opportunities.
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Ask For The Interview
Briefly introduce yourself by calling or emailing the professional you’d like to interview and explain to them that you would like to speak for 10-15 minutes to discuss their career path, job responsibilities, and your questions for them. For more detailed information on how to ask for an informational interview, see our Informational Interview Guide at the Career Center.
Questions About Different Industries
Informational interviews can be game-changers if youre mulling a move to a different industry. This interest might develop over time, as it did for Andrea Ippolito. Early in her career, Ippolito was a biomedical engineer, but became more and more interested in career paths outside of engineering. I loved being technical, but found myself drawn to the business side, said Ippolito, founder and CEO of Simplifed, an Ithaca, New York-based telehealth platform focused on lactation, infant nutrition and on-demand virtual support for new parents.
Ippolito joined several networking groups and did volunteer work to build her network. That led to introductions to leaders across her field, with whom she did, on average, one informational interview a week. The information Ippolito gathered during those interviews led her to a business-side position in the medical field, which in turn led her to found Simplifed in 2020.
When youre exploring a new field, ask these questions during an informational interview, suggests Augustine from TopResume.
Given that my core strengths are , and I enjoy projects that use my skills, what roles would I be best suited for in your field?Asking this question can confirm your suspicion that youd be good in a certain role, and help you discover other roles within the field.
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The Problem With Purpose #1
Going in with this purpose can be inauthentic.
Its like calling someone on the other side of the door to ask if they can just show you around. Then while they are showing you around, trying to build a desk for yourself and asking to stay. Can you see how that can seem too intruding?
- Further reading: L.V. Anderson, an editor for an online magazine, talks about the reason she thinks informational interviews are a disingenuous way of networking in this article.
Questions About Career Direction
Danielle Benson, performance marketing manager, retail at New York-based mens grooming product company Harrys, was enrolled in a pre-med program when she realized that marketing was her true calling. Bensons aunt had a connection to Amanda Augustine, and Benson emailed Augustine to arrange an informational interview. The two met for lunch in New York City for about an hour, Benson recalled.
I remember starting with the question Who is Amanda? Benson said. I wanted to better understand who she was and how I could leverage her experience. Benson researched how to prepare for an informational interview and came up with the following questions.
What did you study in college? How does it relate to your current job?Benson wanted to discover which major she should pursue she ended up switching to communications.
What is your day-to-day in marketing like?I wanted to know if marketing is something I really could get excited about and want to pursue, Benson said.
What are different marketing jobs and what skills are required for each one?Marketing was a new world to Benson. I knew it was a huge umbrella and wasnt sure where to start when it came to figuring out the type of experience I wanted to gain, she said.
The two stayed connected, and Benson eventually landed an internship at the company at which Augustine was working. Meeting Amanda made all the difference in my career and for that Ill be forever thankful, said Benson.
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What Exactly Does An Informational Interview Entail
- Contacting people you know or want to meet to gather information about career paths, industries, organizations, and/or potential opportunities
- Building relationships with individuals who can help the progress of your career exploration, decision making, and job/internship search
- Asking individuals who you initially connect with for additional relevant contacts in order to expand your network
Remember: Not everyone will respond to your request or network, but the ones who do will likely be very happy to help you and provide advice, referrals or other contacts.
Conduct The Informational Interview
- Dress appropriately for the industry
- Bring along extra copies of your resume, in case it comes up in conversation.
- Know where youre going, and arrive 10 minutes early to the meeting.
- Ask for feedback on your resume. Its an appropriate part of an interaction.
- Always ask your contact if he/she can recommend other individuals with whom to speak before ending the interview. If connect with these people, be sure to let the original contact know.
- Ask if theres anything you can do for the contact.
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Reach Out To Request The Informational Interview
- Create a list of potential contacts using an organized way of tracking communications, such as an excel spreadsheet.
- Approach contacts either in person, via email, or phone to arrange informational interviews.
- Your initial outreach should be brief and contain the following information:
- How you found him/her .
- Your school, area of study, and expected year of graduation.
- Your current status .
- What you are asking them for .
- How you would like to interact in-person, via phone or virtually.
- How and when you will follow up .
After The Informational Interview
Its always a good idea to send an email or note after the interview to thank the person for their time and insights. It shows that you appreciate them taking the time to meet with you and will emphasize your interest in working for their company in the future, Lambart says.
Informational interviews are a great way to extend your job search beyond simply responding to ads on job boards. They are also a great way to expand your professional network. Coming prepared, asking the right questions, and making sure you follow up after the interview will all help you to plot out the next step in your career journey.
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How An Informational Interview Can Boost Your Career
Skillfully used, an informational interview is one of the most valuable sources of occupational information. While the conversation may cover some of the same ground information on a company website, it presents opportunities for a flexible inside view of a job field unmatched by other sources.
Search For The Interviewee
To find people for your informational interview, you can reach out to friends, colleagues, employees of a company you would like to work at, authors of books and articles about your career path. Good places to find interviewees are professional associations, social media, industry events, recruitment fairs and employer presentations. Once you have made a list of people, you can start contacting them.
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Have A Goal In Mind Before You Start Your Interview
Sitting down with an expert in your target field for an informal conversation might sound like a lot of fun, but this isnt a cocktail party and youre not just making small talk.
If you dont have an ultimate goal in mind when you sit down with your interviewee, itll be hard for them to figure out how to help you achieve that goal.
Your main goal should be three parts: to leave a lasting impression in the mind of the interviewee, to obtain as much information as you can, and to position yourself as a person that the company can circle back to when an opportunity opens up.
Example Email Of An Informational Interview Request
Here’s an example an email you could send when contacting a professional for an informational interview:
Subject Line: Informational interview request
My name is Rebecca Smith, and I recently graduated from York University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. I am interested in pursuing a career as a financial analyst, and my former professor, Dr. David Trainor, suggested I contact you to learn more about this profession.
I would love to learn more about your experience as a senior financial analyst for Aurora Management Consultants and all your previous roles. I would also be grateful for any advice you might have for a new graduate who wants to get into the industry.We can meet for coffee sometime next week, or I’d be happy to talk by phone instead if that would be more convenient.
Thank you very much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you!
York University class of 2018
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Dont Forget To Follow Up
Make sure you follow up with a personal thank you note letting them know how much you appreciated both their time and knowledge. If they gave you advice or suggestions, let them know how youre implementing their advice or following up with their suggestions.
A thank you note is also a great way to make sure you stay fresh in their mind should a potential opening come up. We actually have an entire other blog article dedicated to thank you notes which you can read by clicking here.
What Should I Expect In An Informational Interview
At first glance, its true that an informational interview may seem like a job interview. Two professionals will be meeting in some way, in person, on the phone, via online conference or perhaps for coffee either in person or virtually to discuss work.
But dont be fooled. If you walk in the door prepared to make a case for yourself as a future employee, you will be disrespecting the time of the professional who agreed to meet with you, as well as missing the point of the whole interaction.
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