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Informational Interview

Informational Interview

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Arrange and conduct an informational interview to gain insider knowledge about a position or company.

How to Arrange an Informational Interview

Write a letter of introduction (to send via hard copy or e-mail). Indicate your interest in your contact's profession and organization and your desire to visit and talk with him or her about it.  Inform him/her how you received his/her name (e.g. your friend Susie, your uncle Bob, etc.). Be clear that you are NOT looking for a job, but for information on which to base a career decision. Propose a few dates and times that work for you and state that the informational interview would last about 30 minutes. State in the letter that you will telephone within the next several days to follow up on your letter. This will alert the office of your call and serve as a preliminary introduction. Do not expect the person to call you. You must take the initiative.

Phone the contact but make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say. If your contact has a secretary, he or she may try to screen your call. Be prepared to explain the kind of information you may be looking for and that you are following up on a recent letter. You may want to write out a phone introduction "script" to practice.

Follow up by sending a thank you note immediately following the informational interview. This will indicate your appreciation and will keep you in their memory.

Keep a record of your interviews for you own information. Names, titles, addresses, dates and major points of discussion will enable you to remember who told you what, and how to get back in touch with your contacts. 

Sample Questions for an Informational Interview

Preparation:

  • How did you choose this career field?
  • What kind of training/background do you have?
  • What types of employment or internships would you recommend?
  • What are entry-level opportunities in this field?
  • Is graduate school important for someone in this field?
Present Job:
  • Describe a typical workweek and a typical day.
  • What skills or talents are most essential for effective job performance and to succeed in your field?
  • What is the most rewarding part of your job?
  • What are the challenges facing this industry today?
  • Who do you consider to be the leaders in this industry?
  • How do you view the current state of the industry?
  • How did you get to this point in your career?
  • What, if anything, would you do differently?
Life Style:
  • What obligations does your work place on your personal time?
  • How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, hours of work, vacation schedule, location?
Job-Hunting Strategies:
  • How do people find out about these jobs?
  • What specific aspects of my background should I highlight or sell the most?
  • What organizations would you recommend I pursue? Would you mind looking at my list of target companies?
  • Is there a certain person within this organization whom I should contact first and may I use your name when I contact them?
Matching/Selling Your Background to a Specific Organization: 
  • What kind of person seems to do best in this sort of work?
  • For which entry-level positions would I be best suited?
  • What would be the appropriate way to pursue these positions?
  • Do you have any suggestions on my job search strategy?
  • In your opinion, how realistic are my goals?
  • What is a reasonable salary range for entry-level positions?
Follow up:
  • Are there any questions I should have asked but did not?
  • Do you mind if I stay in touch with you regarding my career search?
  • Thank you for your time, this has been very informative and valuable, can you suggest any other individuals I might speak to in your career field whom I might be able to approach for additional information in the same manner I approached you?

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