One of the best sources for gathering information about what’s happening in
an occupation or an industry is to talk to people working in the field. This
process is called Informational or Research Interviewing.
An informational interview is an interview that you initiate — you
ask the questions. The purpose is to obtain information, not to get a job.
Some good reasons to conduct informational interviews are:
- to explore careers and clarify your career goal
- to discover employment opportunities that are not advertised
- to expand your professional network
- to build confidence for your job interviews
- to access the most up-to-date career information
- to identify your professional strengths and weaknesses
Listed below are 6 steps to follow to conduct an informational interview:
Identify the occupation or industry you wish to learn about
Assess your own interests, abilities, values and skills, and evaluate labor
conditions and trends to identify the best fields to research.
Prepare for the interview
Read all you can about the field prior to the interview. Decide what
information you would like to obtain about the occupation/industry. Prepare a
list of questions that you would like to have answered.
Identify people to interview
Start with lists of people you already know — friends, relatives, fellow
students, present or former co-workers, supervisors, neighbors, and so on.
Professional organizations, the Yellow Pages, organizational directories, and
public speakers are also good resources. You may also call an organization and
ask for the name of the person by job title.
Arrange the interview
Contact the person to set up an interview:
- by telephone
- by a letter followed by a telephone call, or
- by having someone who knows the person make the appointment for you
Conduct the interview
Dress appropriately, arrive on time, be polite and professional. Refer to
your list of prepared questions; stay on track, but allow for spontaneous
discussion. Before leaving, ask your contact to suggest names of others who
might be helpful to you and ask permission to use your contact’s name when
contacting these new contacts.
Immediately after the interview, record the information gathered. Be sure to
send a thank-you note to your contact within one week of the interview.
Note: Always analyze the information you’ve gathered. Adjust your job
search, resume, and career objective if necessary.
Prepare a list of your own questions for your informational interview.
Following are some sample questions.
- On a typical day in this position, what do you do?
- What training or education is required for this type of work?
- What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful on
- What part of this job do you find most satisfying? Most challenging?
- How did you get your job?
- What opportunities for advancement are there in this field?
- What entry level jobs are best for learning as much as possible?
- What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field?
- How do you see jobs in this field changing in the future?
- Is there a demand for people in this occupation?
- What special advice would you give a person entering this field?
- What types of training do companies offer persons entering this field?
- What are the basic prerequisites for jobs in this field?
- Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more
about this field?
- What do you think of the experience I’ve had so far in terms of entering
- From your perspective, what are the problems you see working in this
- If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for
yourself? Why? What would you change?
- With the information you have about my education, skills and experience,
what other fields or jobs would you suggest I research further before I make
a final decision?
- What did you think of my resume? Do you see any problem areas? How would
you suggest I change it?
- Who do you know that I should talk to next? When I call him/her, may I use
Other helpful information
- Learn as much as you can about the company, salary and benefits. Friends,
neighbors, and relatives who work for the company are good sources of
information. Libraries, local Chambers of Commerce, and your Wisconsin Job
Center can also be helpful.
- Learn everything you can about the job and how your previous experience
and training qualify you for the job.