Finding Work

Informational Interviews

What is an Informational Interview?

An informational interview is a meeting or conversation, initiated by you, with an employer or someone in an occupational field that you are interested in exploring or entering. These are not job interviews, and it is important that the person you are speaking to never feels pressured to offer you a job, invite you to apply for an opening, or ask for your resume. If they do, then great, but it needs to come from them. Ideally, these are informative, productive conversations that help you learn more about the field you are exploring and, perhaps, provide an opportunity to build your network.

Purpose

  • Learn more about your occupational field and career options within your industry.
  • Get advice about where your qualifications might fit, how best to present them to employers.
  • Exchange information, learn new things.
  • Gain exposure and practice your networking skills.
  • Build new relationships with people in your industry.
  • Receive referrals/new contacts to expand your network.
Soliciting the Interview
  • Always emphasize that you are not asking for a job, only for career advice and information.
  • Be flexible about the time, place, and duration of the discussion; take your lead from the person you want to speak to.
  • Research the company in advance, so that you can demonstrate effort, interest, and knowledge.
  • State who, if anyone, referred you to the company or the person.
  • If your contact declines, ask if there would be a better time to meet, or different contact within their company, or another industry contact.
  • Ask for permission to use the referral’s name to facilitate networking.
Preparing for the Interview

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.  Studies show that it takes, on average, 7 seconds for a person to form an impression of you; so try to come across as genuine and professional.

There Are a Number of Steps You Can Take to Prepare
  • Conduct labour market research in advance, so that you will be able to intelligently discuss industry trends and be “in the know” about who the industry leaders are, and what companies are in the news.
  • Prepare 10-15 questions, prioritizing them to ensure you are getting the information you feel most important, and customizing them to each person. Avoid asking questions that your contact may not be able to answer. This article provides some great ideas to get you started; there are also sample questions below.
  • Prepare a brief, succinct explanation about yourself and start out with an introduction that explains a bit more about who you are – use your 30-second summary – and outlines your goal for the meeting.
  • Consider bringing your own business cards, providing your name, degree, and contact information. As a student, you would not be expected to have them, but they can help you appear polished and professional. Many people use Vistaprint as they have customizable templates, and are relatively inexpensive.
  • Ensure that your resume is up to date. Your contact person may ask for your resume at the end of the interview. If you don’t have it with you, tell them you will email it to them right away. Remember, however, do not offer to leave a resume; only provide if you are asked.
Sample Questions
  • How did you get into this field?
  • What are the qualifications employers are looking for in this field?
  • What are the major rewards of this career?
  • What are some of the drawbacks?
  • Would you be willing to give me feedback on my resume?
  • How well do you think my experience and education prepare me to work in this field?
  • Is there more training or experience I should get?  If yes, what kind?
  • Are there other related fields where my background would fit?
  • Are you aware of any current opportunities in this field?
  • What suggestions do you have for me, as a person who is just starting out?
  • Is there anyone you can recommend me to contact for further information?  Can I mention that you referred me?
Handling Yourself During and After the Interview
  • Remember... you do not get a second chance to make a first impression. Arrive on time, whether that is for in-person or an online/phone call, ensure you are dressed appropriately, and be prepared.
  • Use your prepared questions as a guideline for directing the conversation but, be prepared to go off script – if they lead the conversation in another direction and it’s going well – let it happen! Remember that you are building an important relationship. Although these are called informational interviews, they really are more of a two-way conversation.
  • Respect their time. Your introduction should be short, you should only ask 8-10 questions, and, even if the discussion is going well, you should bring it to a close when your time is up. Let the other person invite you to stay and chat longer.
  • Either drop off or mail a thank you card (cards are more personal than emails, and hand-written cards are rare these days). At a minimum, send a thank you email.
  • Follow up on any new contacts/referrals.
Building Professional Connections: Where to Begin

Learn about Events: 

  • Join professional associations within your industry (always check for student rates)  
  • Subscribe to industry publications and newsletters   
  • Find social media groups within your industry  
  • Subscribe to Eventbrite notifications to receive information about networking events  

 

Identify Contacts: 

  • Search and send personalized connection requests on LinkedIn and other social media  
  • Ask friends and family for potential connections in the industry of interest 
  • Check company websites for names of team members to be able to connect with them  
  • Ask people you personally know for referrals  
  • Find email addresses by using hunter.io
Additional Resources on Building Professional Connections

Find out more about networking and building connections by watching the following videos: 

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