The Informational Interview

The informational interview is an often under-utilized career development tool. These meetings allow students and others seeking to explore career fields to gain further insight into a specific industry or position, learn positive and negative aspects to potential career paths, and to network with professionals in a field of interest.

When looking for people to meet with, current coworkers are a great place to start. Meeting with people from multiple departments gives you the chance to understand all aspects of an organization. You will learn more about their varying responsibilities, skills and career paths. From there, ask those you meet to connect you with others that may be willing to speak with you.

Many working professionals are more than willing to aid students interested in a future in their career field. When setting up meetings, be sure to use the following guidelines: 

  • Be flexible to the person’s schedule.
  • Do not ask about current openings at the individual’s company.
  • You may be more candid than a formal interview, but still be professional.
  • Conduct your research ahead of time so that you are prepared with thoughtful and specific questions about the person’s company and position.
  • Prioritize your questions so that you’ll be sure to have time for the most important ones.
  • Bring a copy of your resume and ask for feedback.
  • Be respectful of their time and don’t run longer than planned.
  • Send a handwritten thank-you note afterward and stay in touch periodically.

Sample Questions to Ask:

  • What is a typical day at your  job like?
  • Why did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
  • How did you get your first job?
  • What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?
  • Can you suggest some ways a student could obtain this necessary experience?
  • What level and type of education is necessary to reach your position?

By meeting with various people in differing fields during college or early in your career, you’ll be much more prepared to make educated decisions about your future career path when it’s time enter the workforce.

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