What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is conducted between a student and an industry professional and so is considered similar to that of a job interview. However, the goal of an informational interview is to learn new information about a specific career field, not to get a job. Knowledge regarding the skills and personal characteristics required for the career are also learned.
Why set up an informational interview?
It gives students an opportunity to learn about a career or occupational trend from a professional who is actually working in their field of interest and make important networking contacts for future use. Since these interviews take place in the professional’s place of work, students will also have a chance to gain a realistic view of work in their field of interest, including its challenges, downsides and rewards – all things that may not be mentioned in the classroom.
Where can informational interviews take place?
They usually occur at the professional’s corporation or organization. However, they can also be arranged through email or over the phone.
What should the student wear to the interview?
Informational interviews should be taken as seriously as a job interview and so students should dress similarly for both. Therefore, business casual themed attire is the least formal option. Dress slacks or a skirt, with a conservative blouse, for women and a collared shirt, with dress pants with a tie for men, are all examples of appropriate clothing options.
How should I set-up the informational interview?
The student should first identify an individual who is employed in their field of interest. It’s usually easiest to start with someone they already know, such as a family friend. Students can also utilize the informational interview as a way to “get their foot in the door” at a corporation or organization that they are very interested in working at.
Next, the student will need to contact the individual via phone or email. Make sure to be courteous of the professional’s time when making the request!
The student needs to go to their informational interview well prepared with appropriate questions. Example questions are:
- What schooling (degree and major) is required to get into this field?
- What does your typical work week look like? How many hours do you work, what are the most important skills to possess in this field, and what type of client interaction takes place?
- What’s the future demand look like for this position?
Upon completion of the interview, the student should follow-up with a thank you letter expressing their gratitude. Make sure to know the correct spelling of the professional’s name!