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Informational Interviewing

Informational Interviewing is a technique used to explore and research occupations and organizations. It involves talking with people who are in an occupation you are considering, potential employers, or simply contacts who may help provide information or further contacts for you. Information Interviewing has several benefits, including:

  • Discovering first-hand information about an occupation. Reference books can provide facts about an occupation, such as salary and demand, but information interviews provide a personalized perspective of an occupation or job.
  • Access to the hidden job market. Only 25% of all job openings are advertised! Direct contact and networking are essential to finding out about unadvertised job openings. An Informational Interview is NOT a job interview, but it can be a helpful first step in eliciting information about a prospective employer.
  • Improvement of self-confidence and interviewing skills.

Remember the purpose of the visit is to obtain information, not to ask for a job. The approach you take in a job interview is quite different from that of an information interview. In the job interview, you are trying to sell yourself. In an information interview, you only want to learn about a field and make decisions as to whether it is a viable career for you.

Six steps to the informational interview

  1. Plan Your Goals Determine the purpose for the interview: background research on a field of work, researching a type of organization, finding out where jobs are, etc.
  2. Identify Occupations or Job Titles Begin by identifying occupations and job titles that you want to explore. Research these areas as thoroughly as you can before you begin your informational interviews.
  3. Identify Potential Contacts Begin to identify contacts through Career Services, family, friends, professors, etc. Careers Services sponsors Job Shadow Month each October and will also be happy to help you identify contacts anytime throughout the year.
  4. Schedule Informational Interviews Sample phone conversation if you need to set up the interview yourself: Student: “Hi, Ms. Smith, my name is _______________, and I’m a Clarke University student. I’m very interested in the marketing field and I’m trying to find out as much as I can about it. I have read a lot about the area, but really feel it might help to talk to someone who works in the field. I would appreciate meeting with you to discuss this occupation, if you have the time. The interview would only take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. My schedule is flexible and I can meet with you at your convenience.” Be sure you make it clear that you’re NOT looking for a job at this time, but that you are just trying to obtain information.

Prepare your questions Based upon your goals for the interview and the results of your research in the area, prepare questions for the interview. Try to make them open-ended questions, meaning those which can be answered other than by “yes” or “no”. The suggestions below should give you some ideas:

Suggested questions to ask during a Career Information Interview

In your current position, what do you do in a typical day?

  • What are the most interesting aspects of your job?
  • What part of your work do you consider dull or repetitious?
  • What percentage of your time do you devote to such duties?
  • What were the jobs you had which led to this one?
  • How long does it usually take to move from one step to the next in this career path?
  • What is the step above the position you currently hold?
  • What is the top position you can expect to have in this career field?
  • Are there other areas in this field to which people may be transferred? What are they?
  • What are the prerequisites for your position?
  • Are there any specific courses a student might take that would be particularly beneficial in this field?
  • What entry-level jobs qualify people for this field?
  • What types of training do companies give to a person entering this field?
  • What are the salary ranges for the various levels in the field?
  • What aspects of a career in this field do you consider particularly good or bad?
  • Is there a demand for people in this field?
  • Do you view this field as a growing one?
  • How do you see the jobs in this field changing over the next two years?
  • What can I do to prepare myself for such changes?
  • What is the best way to obtain a position which will start me in this field?
  • Do you have information on job specifications and descriptions which I may have?
  • What special advice would you give a young person entering this field
  • Are there any clubs or organizations you would recommend?

Conducting the Interview Dress in business attire. Arrive early. When you meet the interview contact, shake hands. Take notes, but don’t try to write down everything the other person says; jot down key points. At the end of the interview, shake hands again, and express your appreciation for the interview. Following the interview, send a thank you note to the contact person.

Ask good questions, get full information, and you will be able to make a better decision as to whether or not to pursue a particular field as a career possibility. Whatever your decision, be sure to send a thank you to the person you interviewed.