Often the most current and specific information about a career field may not be available online. The best information comes from people who are actually working in that career field.
An informational interview is an informal conversation you can have
with an expert in your area of interest. It is an effective research tool and is best done after preliminary online research. It is
not a job interview, and the objective is not to find job openings.
You may feel awkward reaching out to people you don’t know. However, most people actually enjoy taking a few moments out of their day to reflect on their professional life and give advice to someone with an interest in their field.
Areas of focus
- A career path/specialty
- A market
- Reviewing your CV or Resume
- A specific organization
How to schedule an informational interview
- Contact the person by email or phone
- Ask for a convenient time to have a 15-20 minute informational interview
- Tell them why you chose them and what you want to focus on
- Ideally, offer to buy them coffee or lunch
- Let them choose whether they would like to meet in their office or somewhere else that is convenient for them
Preparing for the informational interview
Choose three–five questions that you hope to ask in the interview to learn more about your area of interest with the person you are meeting with.
During the informational interview
While you get to ask the questions, keep in mind that this person is interested in learning more about you and helping you succeed.
- Emphasize that you are looking for information, not a job.
- Give a brief overview of yourself and your education and/or work background.
- Be prepared to direct the interview, but also let the conversation flow naturally, and encourage the interviewee to do most of the talking.
- Respect the person’s time. Limit the meeting to the agreed-upon timeframe.
- Ask the person if you may contact them again in the future with other questions.
- Ask for a recommendation for additional informational interviews and if you may use their name.
After the interview
- Send a thank-you note within 1-2 days to express your appreciation for the time and information given. Based on whether the informational interview was relatively informal or more businesslike, this may be a brief handwritten note, an email or a business letter.
- Ask to join their network on LinkedIn.
- Keep in touch with the person, especially if you had a particularly nice interaction; let them know that you followed up on their advice and the outcome. This person could become an important part of your network.
You can ask about such topics as the nature of a person’s work, how to get started in the field, or effective approaches for the job search. Use some of the following questions or make up your own.
- What led you to where you are today?
- What advice do you have for someone interested in similar work?
- What are some challenges you have faced?
- What do you find most rewarding in your work?
- What skills contributed to your success?
- What is a typical day (or week) like for you?
- Are there challenges to practicing in your specific state? What is the scope of work?
- Can you suggest anyone else I could contact for additional information?