Five Quick Tips on Informational Interviewing!

Dianne Hull
The summer can be a great time to meet with people for informational interviews. You have probably spent time being interview-ED, but this is your chance to be the interview-ER, where you can hopefully gain some interesting tidbits which will help you in your future job and internship search, as well as hopefully making some connections which can be useful down the road.

1. Do not be afraid to ask!

Many people are anxious about asking others to take the time to speak with them about career options. Remember, you are not asking for a job, you are simply asking for advice. By asking someone for advice, you are implying that they have expertise and knowledge. This is a compliment and many people are flattered that you would even ask them. It is most helpful to ask for informational interview from people whom you have some sort of connection with – alumni are a great place to start.

2. Prepare Ahead of Time

Brainstorm your questions ahead of time – think about what you want to learn from your meeting, and create as many questions as you can think of. You may want to break your questions into two categories, one that is more generic and could be asked of other contacts, and another list of more specific questions, which may only apply, to this particular person and their career. Do not plan to get to ALL of your questions, as you hope to have a conversation that flows naturally.

3. Research Your Contact and Their Career

Thanks to the internet and social media, you should be able to do some background research on your interviewee. Utilize LinkedIn, alumni databases, and old-fashioned Google searches to gain a good understanding of this person’s background – where did they go to school and when? What did they study? How long have they been at their current employer? Not only will this information help to frame the questions you want to ask, but also you will not waste time asking questions that you could have easily found answers to yourself. And your interviewee will be impressed with your preparation!

4. Use Your Time Wisely

When you initially schedule the informational interview, be sure to indicate how much time you think your meeting will take – no more than 30 minutes – and ask if that works for them. Be mindful of the time throughout your meeting. The best way to do this is to wear a watch, as you do not want to be checking the time on your phone during your meeting and create the misconception that you are checking on texts or social media.

5. Follow Up and Final Questions

At the conclusion of your time, be sure to thank your contact for their time and expertise. It is always a good idea to ask them if they have other contacts they might think would be useful to you. You never know whom they might refer you to that might be helpful. After your meeting, be sure to send a thank you note. Make the note specific to your conversation and offer to provide your contact with updates as you progress in your job search. Keep in touch on a periodic basis and will help to keep the door open if they learn of opportunities that may be of interest to you.

Visit Career Services informational interviewing page to learn more about questions to ask. Schedule an appointment with a career advisor to learn more about making informational interviewing work for you!