Self Help-Informational Interviewing

Informational Interviewing

Informational Interviewing

from DISCOVER Newsletter January 2009

Whether you are entering the workforce or changing careers, informational interviewing can help you find the right career. It can help you tune into the hot issues in your chosen field, learn the lingo, and find out what people value in job applicants. If you are changing careers, the skills you learn and use in one field of work may apply to other career areas as well. Your personal and technical skills may make it possible for you to choose from several job opportunities. Use informational interviewing to narrow the possibilities. Armed with information gained from your interview(s), you can polish your resume to highlight your competence in areas prospective employers find most valuable.

Finding the right person to interview can be challenging. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

  • Contact friends and family who work in the type of job you think you might like and ask for a brief meeting. Or ask them to help you set up an interview with a colleague.
  • Find out if your co-workers know anyone you could contact.
  • Ask former teachers or professors to help you get in touch with professionals in your field.
  • Search the Internet for names and contact information for companies that do the type of work you want to do. Then, call to request an informational interview.

When asking for an informational interview, explain that you are gathering information about a career. Most people like to talk about their work, and will welcome informational interviews as soon as you assure them you are not looking for a job. It's best to schedule a brief face-to-face meeting in the location he or she works. It's also a good idea to find out all you can about a company before you go to the interview. Do they have a website where you can get information? Do they have informational brochures they can send you? Find this out when you call.

On interview day, be on time and dress as you would for an employment interview. You want to make a good impression. The person you are interviewing may be able to help you when you are ready to look for employment. If you impress your interviewee with your interview skills and interest in the field, he or she may offer help in your job search later.

To ensure a successful interview:

  • limit the interview time to 20-30 minutes.
  • Have a list of questions to ask. Make them clear and concise. Some examples of good questions are:
    • How long have you been doing this work?
    • What do you like about your job?
    • What do you dislike about your job?
    • What is a typical workday like?
    • What kind of education or training do you need to do this job?
    • Does it pay well?
    • What makes you successful? What personal qualities have been your best assets?
  • Ask if the person could recommend others to talk to in the same field. Do this only if you feel the person will not be offended. After all, you did ask to talk to the person because of his or her experience in the field.
  • Thank the person for the opportunity.
  • The next day, send a letter thanking the person for taking the time to help you prepare for your future.

As you investigate career options, do background research and talk to everyone you can in your chosen field-both managers and general workers. Doing this will help you make informed choices about your career options. Good luck!