Informational Interviewing

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Informational Interviewing2017-05-25T09:49:11-05:00

What is it?

Informational Interviewing:

  1. Finds out what a career is about and assists in selecting a career that interests you
  2. Is an opportunity to find out the pros and cons of a career that are not listed in the job description
  3. Is an opportunity to learn about what skills are required and those that are preferred
  4. Lets you become aware of emerging trends within the industry, from someone in the industry
  5. Shows how to get started in a certain career field and how to become successful
  6. Is a great networking tool.

When should an information interview be conducted?

Information Interviews can be conducted at any time during the life of your career. It is most useful when you are changing or selecting a career to pursue.

How is it handled?

It can be conducted in person or by telephone. The most effective way to conduct an informational interview is in person. This allows you to have face-to-face time with the contact and you can start to build a networking relationship with that person. However, if the company you are interested in speaking with is not local, a telephone informational interview would be acceptable.

Keep the meeting to 20 30 minutes, unless the interviewee suggests or indicates otherwise.

How do I get started?

  1. Research companies — preferably local — that are in industries or careers you are interested in.
  2. Make contact with someone in the company that you can speak with about the area you are interested in.
  3. Use career resource center, alumni network, professors or other university personnel, or write a letter to assist with making contacts within the company.
    (See the Sample Request Letter)
  4. Not all companies can accommodate interview requests, so be prepared to contact more than one company.
  5. Set up an appointment to meet with contact. The meeting can be by phone or e-mail, but face-to-face is preferable.
  6. Be prepared
    • Know something about the company
    • Bring a method to record information notebook or even a tape recorder (ask for permission)
    • Have questions prepared
    • Dress appropriately
    • Update and bring your resume
    • Practice with a friend or relative
    • Call to confirm your appointment the day before and be on time

Questions

For a 20-30 meeting, have a minimum of 15 questions prepared. In case the meeting can be extended, it would be a good idea to have a few extra questions prepared.

Questions can be randomly selected, or can be selected with a purpose in mind. There are many resources that can provide many different questions. Limit the number of close-ended (yes/no answers) questions. Prioritize your questions. The most important questions to ask are questions that you want answered. Here are a few to consider:

Interviewee’s Background

  1. Tell me how you got started in this field.
  2. What was your education?
  3. What educational background or related experience might be helpful in entering this field?

Work Environment

  1. What are the daily duties of the job?
  2. What are the working conditions?
  3. What skills/abilities are utilized in this work?
  4. What do you like best and least about your career? Why?
  5. What do you find most rewarding about this work, besides the money?

Problems

  1. What are the toughest problems you deal with?
  2. What problems does the organization as a whole have?
  3. What is being done to solve these problems?

Lifestyle

  1. What obligation does your work put on you outside the work week?
  2. How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, work hours, vacations?

Salary

  1. What salary range would an entry-level or new person start in?
  2. What are the fringe benefits of working in this field (or for this company)?
  3. What are the other forms of compensation (bonuses, commissions, securities)?

Potential

  1. Where do you see yourself going in a few years?
  2. What are your long-term career goals?

Promotional

  1. Is turnover high in this field/industry/company?
  2. How does one move from position to position?
  3. Do people normally move to another company/division/agency?
  4. What is your policy about promotions from within?
  5. How are employees evaluated?

Industry

  1. What trends do you see for this industry in the next three to five years?
  2. What kind of future do you see for the organization?
  3. How much of your business is tied to (the economy, government spending, weather, supplies)?

Preparing for this field and Hiring Decisions

  1. What are the most important factors used to hire people in this work (education, past experience, personality, communication skills)
  2. What courses do you wish you had taken that would have better prepared you for this or any field?
  3. What courses did you take that have proven most valuable in this field?
  4. How important are grades and GPA for obtaining a job in this field?

Job Market

  1. How do people find out about your jobs?
  2. Are they advertised in the newspaper? Which ones?
  3. Do you rely mostly on word of mouth?
  4. Do you utilize the human resource office for the hiring process?
  5. What type of employers hire people in this line of work?
  6. What other career fields do you find are related to your work?

Advice

  1. How well suited is my background for this industry?
  2. When the time comes, how would I go about finding a job in this field?
  3. What experience — paid or volunteer — would you recommend?
  4. What suggestions do you have to help make my resume more effective?
  5. What advice do you have for someone who is considering this type of career?

Career Changers

  1. My current career is _________. How easy or difficult do you think it might be to make a transition from that field to your field?
  2. What aspects of my background do you feel would be most helpful in making the transition to your career field?
  3. What skills needed in your career field do you think someone in my current career might be lacking and need to develop?
  4. What would be the best kind of training to get to make the transition to your field?
  5. Would you take a brief look at my resume and suggest ways I could tailor it to make myself more marketable as I make the transition to your career field?

Referral to Others

  1. Based on our conversation today, what other types of people do you believe I should talk with?
  2. Can you share any contact information for these people?
  3. May I have permission to use your name when I contact them?

Important Points to Remember

  • This is not a sneaky way to get in the backdoor of a company for a job interview. Do not turn this interview into a job interview.
  • Know when to end the interview. If you told the interviewee you would only take 30 minutes of their time, make sure your wrap up the interview in that time frame. Remarks such as “I don’t want to go over the 30 minutes I asked for, so let me ask you a final question” or “Well, I promised I would only take 30 minutes of your time, so we can wrap the interview up now, if you’d like” can be used to let the interviewee know you are keeping your word. They will let you know if they can spare some additional time.
  • Ask for referrals of other people, or companies, that you can contact to find out more information about this career field.
  • If you want a more in-depth feel for the area, ask the interviewee if you could shadow them for a day or half day, to see what they do.
  • Ask for the interviewees business card or if you can stay in touch with them.
  • Thank the interviewee and follow up with a thank you note/card/letter.

What do I do if I am offered a job?

Your reaction will depend on the stage you are in. If you are still exploring careers and goals, you might want to consider conducting more interviews before accepting a position with that company. If you are at a point where it would be beneficial to start working in the field, and the conditions/benefits meet your needs, consider taking the position.

Other Resources

Websites

Books

  • A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market by Katherine Hansen
  • What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles