What Is an Informational Interview?
An informational interview is a meeting that you schedule with a person who works for a company or in a field that interests you. The purpose of such a meeting is to allow you to gather information for further exploration of that particular company or career field. An informational interview is not a job interview; rather it puts you in contact with a an experienced professional who can give you helpful information and a realistic idea of what it is like to work in a particular job and who maybe in a position to recommend you for a job and introduce you to further contacts.
Why do informational interviews?
Informational interviewing is an excellent way to get the “inside scoop” on an employer or a career field. Other benefits include:
Where do I find people to interview?
It is best to have some kind of connection to the person you interview. Ask friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, employers/former employers, your friends’ parents, GC faculty and staff, people you know through church, your former teachers, lifelong friends of your parents, people you meet through athletic/sporting events, GC alumni, etc. the Office of Career and Personal Development not only has names of many employers, we also have connections with a wide range of alumni who are willing to assist you in exploring your career options.
How do I prepare for an Informational Interview?
Remember, most people enjoy talking about what they do, and how they got into the field, but it is very important that you do not waste their time! Be prepared and know what you want to ask before you arrive. Know your own interests, skills, values, and how they relate to the career field represented by the person with whom you will be talking. Know exactly what kind of information you want. If you need assistance in preparing for an informational interview, please contact the Career and Personal Development office.
How do I arrange the interview?
Generally, the most effective way to arrange an informational interview is to send the person an e-mail (or an old-fashioned letter) explaining what you have in mind and then follow-up with a phone call. If you have a mutual contact who suggested that you call this person, be sure to let them know that up front. For example: “Alice Smith, Director of Marketing at Advanced Home Care, suggested that I contact you.” You need to be certain that the person you are contacting knows Alice Smith. Explain that you would like to have a few minutes of their time to ask questions about the career field they work in and that you will be calling within the next few days. Attach a copy of your resume, but be certain that your request is clearly NOT for a job interview. Remember, an informational interview is not the same thing as an actual job interview.
How do you handle the actual interview?
How should I follow up after the Interview?
Be sure to get the person’s business card so you will have a correct name, title, address, etc. Write a nice hand-written thank-you note (or send an e-mail if that seems more comfortable to you) thanking the person for their time. Send the note as quickly as possible after your meeting (the next day is best).
Suggested Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview
1. Questions about the person, his/her history, and his/her work activities
2. Questions about the organization
3. Advice for You
4. Last but not least
Do not ask these questions one after the other, but rather let the conversation flow naturally. Remember, the person will probably answer most of these questions without your having to ask.
Job shadowing takes informational interviews one step further. They allow one to spend time observing and “shadowing” a professional in a career or occupation of interest to you. It’s a GREAT way of exploring careers and experiencing first-hand the day-to-day activities of professionals without a long-term commitment. Experiences can be as little as half a day to as many as two days. While spending time with a professional, you will want to be sure to ask questions to maximize your learning while observing the “culture” in the workplace. Shadows can be done with a Greensboro College alumni or member of the Triad community who has a proven track record in his or her field.
Some examples of questions you may want to ask:
Read about real interviews with professionals at www.jobshadow.com
As with informational interviews, be certain to request a business card and follow up with a thank-you note or email as quickly as possible as after your shadow.