What is an Informational Interview?
What better way to find out about a field you are considering than to speak with someone who is working in the industry? Often times, the people who are currently in field have the most relevant and current information about the job that isn't available through reading and researching online. This is your opportunity to really find out the real "scoop" from an expert!
An informational interview is a brief meeting with someone who is in a career or industry that you are considering. It is a chance to get first-hand information and advice that is specific to your interests and concerns. In addition to gaining knowledge about the field and career, you will meet professionals and begin to establish a network of contacts. As a student you will find that professionals are generally more willing to help and support your career development – they remember when they were students! The objective of an informational interview is not to find a job, but to gain information.
Research Career Fields
- Do some initial research on the career field or employer using internet and print resources.
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 (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat - slide into their DMs!)
- Friends and family members (and their outer circles)
- 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.
Prepare for the Informational Interview
- Develop a brief introduction of yourself and your hopes for the meeting
- Plan open-ended questions to ask. It is a good idea to come up with 5-7 questions to ask your interviewee. View sample informational interview questions.
- Contact the person and introduce yourself. Make sure you are professional. View sample email and phone script.
- Mention how you got his or her name.
- Ask when it’s a good time to talk in person, over the phone or virtually for a few minutes.
- Emphasize that you are looking for information, not a job.
- Ask for a convenient time to have a 15-30 minute appointment.
- Be ready to ask questions on the spot if the person says it is a good time for him/her and that s/he won’t be readily available otherwise.
Conduct the Informational Interview
- If in person or virtually, dress as you would for a job interview.
- If in person or virtually, arrive on time or a few minutes early. If over the phone, call on time or be ready to answer your phone on time.
- Bring your list of questions and take notes.
- Reiterate that your objective is to learn more about their job or career, ask for career advice, etc.
- Provide a brief overview of yourself and your education and/or work background.
- Be prepared to direct the interview, but also let the conversation flow naturally. Try to have the interviewee do most of the talking.
- Respect the person's time. Limit the meeting to the agreed-upon appointment.
- Ask the person if you may contact them again in the future with other questions.
Follow-up After Your Informational Interview
- Write down what you learned, any additional information you'd like to know, and what your next steps are.
- Send a thank-you email or note by US mail within 24 hours to express your appreciation for the time and information given. Do not send a thank you text.
- Make an effort to keep in touch with the person, especially if you had a fruitful interaction; let them know that you followed up on their advice and what the outcome was. This person could become an important part of your career network.