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Career Development Center
Career Development Center
Career Development Center
An informational interview is an excellent way to gather first-hand knowledge of a particular career. After selecting a career area that sounds interesting or one you want to know more about, contact someone within that occupation. Contact can be made in person or by telephone, but certainly a face-to-face meeting would be best. By meeting at the work-site, you can get a feel for the work environment. Ask the person questions regarding the nature of the work, the requirements to get into the field, the rewards and benefits of the occupation, and the job outlook for the future. Keep in mind, however, that this is only one person's perspective. Speaking with several people per occupational area will give you a more accurate and comprehensive view of the career.

Where to Find Someone to Interview

A potential interviewee can be found in many ways. Try to think of people you may know who have business or other contacts. Even without an easy connection, do not be afraid to contact a complete stranger. Most people are more than happy to share information about their field of choice. If you happen to run across someone who is unwilling to help, simply thank them for their time and move on to another person. The following list of potential resources may help you identify an appropriate person to interview.

  • The Career Resource Center
  • Mentor Program (alumni referral program)
  • Employment directories
  • Company literature or brochures
  • LinkedIn or Facebook
  • Newspaper or magazine articles
  • Faculty contacts
  • Former employers
  • Relatives
  • Friends of parents/parents of friends

Preparing for an Informational Interview

Preparation is the key to conducting a successful informational interview. The steps listed below will help you arrange an appointment and plan an effective interview.

  1. Identify an appropriate organization and contact person within the organization.
  2. Research your field of interest to have a general understanding of the occupation from which to base your questions (DO NOT call completely unprepared! Doing so is unprofessional and impolite.).
  3. Determine whether you will conduct the interview by person or by telephone (for telephone interviews, see telephone prompter included in this handout).
  4. Develop a written introductory script to help with transition into questions (for telephone interviews or when arranging the appointment).
  5. Prepare your questions in advance and write them down so you can concentrate on the information you are receiving and be less worried about what to ask next.
  6. When you are ready to place your call, make sure there are no distractions. Call from a quiet room with nobody else present. Stand while speaking. Have questions and notes on hand. Have a glass of water available.
  7. If you are scheduling an interview in person, make certain you are dressed appropriately (business casual attire - no blue jeans!) and act professionally.
  8. Arrange the interview at a time that is convenient to your contact person. Be flexible in scheduling the appointment or be willing to call back with questions at a more convenient time.
  9. If a person declines to be interviewed, don't be deterred; simply find another candidate.
  10. RELAX, since you are seeking only information about a job, not the job itself, the interview is not something to stress about.

Informational Interview Questions

Telephone Prompter

Before you call someone, practice what you are going to say. This step in your preparation will allow you to be more relaxed when you place your call and increase the likelihood that you will get cooperation from the person you call.

Hello (Dr., Ms., Mr.) ________. My name is ________. I'm currently a student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville majoring in _______. I am really curious to find out more about ____________ and I'm wondering if you might be able to spend 10 minutes answering a few questions (if you are doing this in person, at this time you would arrange an appointment to meet). I assure you, I am not currently looking for a job and I will take up as little of your time as possible. **(If person hesitates or says that they are busy) If I've reached you at an inconvenient moment, could we schedule a time when I can call you back?

This is only a suggested format. Add or subtract anything you want from the example or use your own entirely. The main goal is to have something to quickly let the person know who you are, what you are wanting, and that you do not intend to take up much of their time.

There will be times that you are turned down when you request an appointment to speak with a potential contact. Don't take the refusal personally, and don't get discouraged. Use any refusal as a learning tool. Go back over the conversation to see if you can improve your preparation, strategy, or presentation. Then try the next name on your list. In the long run you will have plenty of favorable replies. Note - If you find yourself playing a lot of telephone tag, you might consider writing a letter to introduce yourself and ask for the help which you are seeking.

The Follow Up

The informational interview does not end when you say good-bye. To maintain a professional contact, and to begin developing your networking skills, send a short thank you note or letter to the person you interviewed. A little courtesy and professionalism goes a long way!

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