On This Page:
- How to Find People to Contact
- How to Request an Informational Interview
- Tips for the Informational Interview
- What to Ask in an Informational Interview
- How to Maintain the Relationships You Develop
An informational interview is a special type of networking. It is a brief, typically face-to-face meeting with a person who is working in a position or field you want to explore or pursue. It gives you the chance to:
- Learn in-depth about a specific industry, field, organization, and/or position, and then assess whether it’s a good fit for your skills, personality, and career goals.
- Observe and get a feel for different work environments.
- Connect with professionals who may have tips about future job or internship opportunities.
- Develop the social skills you’ll need in future interactions in the workplace.
You don’t use an informational interview as a way to apply for a specific job or internship opening. Instead, you ask about overall opportunities in an organization or profession. (Or, more broadly, you use an informational interview to simply explore potential occupations or career possibilities.)
If you aren’t able to have a face-to-face meeting at your interviewee’s workplace, you can do an informational interview by phone or by email. Or you can meet at a coffee shop or another public place. You won’t get to experience the interviewee’s work environment firsthand, but you’ll still learn a lot.
In addition to setting up informational interviews with people you already know, you can also set up meetings with complete strangers. This is actually very common in the world of working professionals, and there are many ways to find people to contact.
The easiest way to begin is to connect with someone you do know or someone that a friend, relative, or professor knows. Think about who is currently in your network, and how each of these people could support you in finding names for informational interviewing purposes.
You can also identify people through:
- The UMN Alumni Association’s Maroon and Gold Network, a free online networking platform that allows you to get career-related advice from U of M alumni around the world who have volunteered to share it.
- Career Fairs.
- Conferences and workshops.
- Company/organization websites.
- Student groups.
- Professional Associations.
- Industry directories.
- Service organizations.
- CLA Career Services.
- Your CLA academic advisor.
- Alumni groups.
- Social media sites, particularly LinkedIn and Facebook.
- Faculty and course instructors.
After you’ve found someone you’d like to talk to, contact that person to request a brief (20 to 30 minutes) interview.
You can make this initial contact either by email or by phone, whichever you prefer. When you do, briefly describe why you’re emailing/calling and what you’d like to chat about.
Include the following information:
- Your first and last name.
- How you got the contact person’s name.
- A brief summary about yourself (two or three sentences is plenty).
- The fact that you’re contacting the person for an informational interview.
- Your email address and phone number. (Note: If you’re contacting the person by phone and you have to leave a voicemail message, be sure to say your name and phone number slowly and clearly.)
Sample Scripts for Requesting an Informational Interview
If the interview is for career exploration:
Hello, Ms. Olmos.
My name is Lee Douglas, and I’m a student at the University of Minnesota majoring in _____. I received your name from Professor Chris Jones.
I’m doing some career research in the field of advertising, which I’m thinking about pursuing after school. I’m hoping you could meet with me for 20 to 30 minutes for an informational interview to discuss the field.
If that would be possible, please let me know when that might be convenient for you.
Again, my name is Lee Douglas, and I can be reached at 612-123-4567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the interview is to uncover actual job opportunities:
Hello, Ms. Olmos.
My name is Lee Douglas, and I’m a senior at the University of Minnesota majoring in _____.
I am beginning my job search, and I’m hoping to conduct informational interviews with professionals in the field of advertising. My goal in meeting with you would be to gain your perspectives about the field, and perhaps referrals to others in your network to learn more.
If you could meet with me for 20 to 30 minutes, please let me know when that might be convenient for you.
Again, my name is Lee Douglas, and I can be reached at 612-123-4567 or email@example.com.
Here are a few strategies for making your informational interviewing activities successful, both for you and for the person you’re meeting with:
- Be flexible. Workaround your contact’s busy schedule when arranging a date and time to get together.
- Research the person’s occupation/organization ahead of time so that you go in with thoughtful questions.
- Dress professionally. Formal clothes (i.e., suit and tie, dress) aren’t necessary, but avoid casual clothes such as jeans, shorts, and tennis shoes.
- Arrive five to 10 minutes early so that you’re respectful of the interviewee’s schedule.
- Bring a list of questions you want to ask, along with a notebook.
- Ask for the names of additional people you can contact, and ask if you can use your interviewee’s name as a referral.
- Before you leave, ask for the person’s business card so that you have an accurate name, title, and address information.
- After the interview, send a thank-you note promptly—within 48 hours.
It may be appropriate to bring your résumé to the informational interview—not to apply for a job but, rather, to request some feedback on it. You could also ask the person you’re interviewing to pass your résumé along to others if appropriate.
Alternatively, you could send your résumé along with your thank-you note after the interview. You could say something like: “I’ve included my résumé in case opportunities may come up in the future.” Tailor your résumé to the specific company/organization as much as possible.
Here are a few potential questions you could ask in an informational interview. You’ll likely have plenty of your own questions, too.
Be sure to think about your questions in advance so that you’ll know how to proceed efficiently, being ever mindful and respectful of your interviewee’s time.
Bring your list of questions with you, but don’t feel tied to it. Having some questions prepared ahead of time will simply help you feel more confident, and will allow the conversation to flow more naturally once you get underway.
- How did you become interested in this field?
- What are the most and least satisfying aspects of your work? What would you change?
- What experiences in your background have contributed to your success in this career? What would you have done differently?
- If this job or field were to become obsolete, in what other kinds of jobs could you apply your skills?
Questions about the organization/company
- How would you summarize what your organization does? How is it unique from your competitors?
- How would you characterize the culture of this organization and/or your department? For example, would you describe your position as closely supervised? Is this a high-pressure organization?
- What does your company look for when recruiting people?
- What other types of internships and jobs are available in your company/organization?
- How has the company/organization grown, and what are its strategies for future growth?
- What is the dress code here?
- What is turnover like in this organization? Why do you think people stay or leave?
Questions about the field or position
- What background is necessary or helpful for this position? For example, are there any particular educational or training programs required or recommended for this position?
- What are the best ways to enter this field? What are the best ways to learn about specific job openings?
- What are the five most important competencies or traits for a person going into this field?
- What are some of the most current trends or changes in this field? What about challenges or controversies?
- Can you suggest professional publications and associations related to your field?
- What are your job responsibilities? What do you do in a typical day or week?
- What is the employment outlook for this field, nationally and locally? Is demand increasing or decreasing?
- What is a typical salary range for this position? How does this vary by setting/industry/size of company/geography?
- Does this position go by any other titles in other organizations?
- What are the typical career paths for people in this field?
- Does this type of position typically involve a lot of team projects, or do people work independently?
- Can you suggest other companies where I might want to contact people?
- Can you suggest other people I might meet with to gain additional perspectives about this career, or about future job or internship opportunities?
Your informational interviewing activities don’t end with the interview itself, nor should they. You’ll want to stay connected with the people you meet.
You can start by sending a thank-you note after each informational interview. A handwritten thank-you card or formal email is appropriate. Your message should include something specific you learned during the meeting; it needs to be more than merely a generic note. If you’ve agreed to forward your résumé to your contact, now is the time to do so.
While it may not be possible to re-engage with all of your informational interviewing contacts regularly, it is important to keep in touch with them. This is one of the most difficult aspects of networking in general: keeping up with your network!
But reaching out to your informational interviewing contacts on a regular basis—every three to six months, perhaps—helps you maintain these key relationships.
You can reconnect with people to:
- Say you followed their advice and share the results.
- Send them articles of potential interest.
- Update them on your résumé, experience, or personal situation.
- Tell them you read or heard something about them or their company/industry.
- Offer them something—like volunteer help on a project, for example, or a college student’s perspective on their market or their mission.
- Tell them you’d like to touch base and meet again.
One final, critical tip: Be sure to ask your informational interviewees and other networking contacts to connect with you on LinkedIn; it’s an easy way to keep in touch with professional colleagues, current and potential. You can do this immediately after meeting someone by using LinkedIn to send them a personalized invitation request.
Once you’re connected with someone on LinkedIn, you’ll be updated if that person gets promoted, for example, or changes organizations. This type of informational nugget can be the perfect prompt for you to follow up—and keep that relationship going.