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Informational interviewing

An informational interview is a 20 – 30 minute meeting with an experienced professional focused on gathering information about a career of interest.

Why conduct an informational interview?

  • Explore careers of interest and clarify your career goals.
  • Discover opportunities available in a given field, including careers you did not know existed.
  • Learn the realities of the world of work and what to expect in a given career field.
  • Meet people in your career field and begin to build your professional network.
  • Develop confidence for internship and job interviews.
  • Get the inside scoop on obtaining internships and jobs in the field.
  • Observe the work environment and learn what the career is like from someone doing the job.

How to conduct an informational interview

1. Identify the career or industry you would like to explore.

  • Assess your interests, values, strengths, and skills, and learn about possible career fields.

2. Determine who you would like to interview.

  • Begin with people you already know including friends, relatives, co-workers, supervisors, advisers and faculty. To find additional contacts use the "Employer Directory" in GoldPASS and join the CEHD Alumni and Student Networking Group on LinkedIn Also consider professional organizations, company websites, directories, and yellow pages.

3. Schedule the appointment.

  • When you call or write, give your name and affiliation and explain the purpose of the interview.
  • Ask for a 20-30 minute interview and be willing to be flexible in scheduling.
  • Get directions to their location and leave your contact information.

4. Prepare for the interview.

  • Research the career field and/or organization before the interview.
  • Determine a list of thoughtful questions.

5. Conduct the interview.

  • Dress appropriately, arrive on-time, and be professional and polite.
  • Ask for their business card and keep a record of their contact information.
  • Obtain names of new contacts.

Sample informational interview questions

About the career/industry
  • What is a typical career path in this field or organization?
  • On a typical day, what do you do?
  • What are the current trends, changes and issues in the field?
Preparing for this career
  • If you were a college student again, what would you do differently to prepare for this career?
  • What do you feel is the best educational preparation for this career?
  • What skills, qualities or abilities are needed to be successful in this career?
Organizational culture
  • How does your organization contribute to or support your professional development?
  • How would you describe the culture or environment at your organization?
  • What type of hours do you normally work?
Networking
  • What professional organizations do people in your career field belong to?
  • Can you suggest other professionals I could talk to?
Career satisfaction
  • What part of your job do you find most satisfying?
  • What part is most challenging?
  • How has your job affected your lifestyle?
Advice
  • What do you wish you would have known before you entered this career field?
  • What do you think of my résumé? Is it appropriate for the career field?

6. Follow-up

  • Send a letter thanking them for their time and the information shared.
  • Take advantage of referrals and call any contacts they shared.
  • Stay in touch with your contact, updating them on your career progress and asking any additional questions you may have.
  • Record, reflect, and evaluate the information you received and make any necessary changes.