The Value of an Informational Interview

June 22, 2017

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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 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. 

 Conducting an informational interview can be a useful and effective exercise in getting an insider’s perspective on your future career and field of work. You should arrange an interview with someone who can provide you with information about the position and field that you are interested in. 

 You may want to conduct an informational interview to: 

  • Gather important information for your job hunt, it can provide real-life testimony and examples for your previous research 

  • Take advantage of an opportunity to learn about an organization, its culture, problems and needs and how you may be a great fit for the organization 

  • Brush up on your experience and self-confidence by asking effective and meaningful questions with professionals in your field 

  • Network and build your circle of contacts in your field of work 

Steps to Follow to Conduct an Informational Interview: 

 1. Identify the Occupation or Industry You Wish to Learn About 

Assess your own interests, abilities, values and skills and evaluate labour conditions and trends to identify the best fields to research. 

 2. 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. 

 3. Identify People to Interview 

Start with lists of people you already know – friends, relatives, fellow students, current or former co-workers, supervisors, neighbours, etc. LinkedIn, professional organizations, organizational directories and public speakers are also good resources. 

 4. Arrange the Interview 

Contact the person to set up an interview: by telephone; via a letter followed by a telephone call; or by having someone who knows the person make an introduction for you to schedule an appointment. 

 5. Conduct the Interview 

Dress appropriately, arrive on time and 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 connecting with these contacts. 

 6. Follow Up 

Immediately following the interview, record the information gathered. Be sure to send a thank-you note to your contact within a couple of days of the interview. Always analyze the information you’ve gathered and adjust your job search, resume and career objectives if necessary. 

Questions to Consider: 

  • Describe your job and what you do each day. What are the duties and responsibilities that are expected of you? 

  • What are the day-to-day problems that you handle? 

  • What interests you most about your job and how did you get started? 

  • What do you find most satisfying about your job? What do you find least satisfying? 

  • What other positions can you consider with the same background? Are there other job opportunities in this field or organization? 

  • What differentiates your organization from your competitors? 

  • What is the typical career path of an individual in your field (including progress and advancement opportunities)? 

  • What skills and talents are most essential to you in your job? How can I evaluate whether or not I have the necessary skills? 

  • How would you describe the working environment of your organization? 

  • What is the current demand for individuals in your position? What do you think future job prospects will be like? 

  • What is the average salary for individuals in your position? 

  • What are the personal qualities you feel will help an individual succeed in your position? 

  • What are the typical entry-level job titles and functions? What entry-level jobs are best for learning as much as possible? 

  • What professional publications, journals or organizations would help me learn more about this field? 

  • (If appropriate) Would you mind taking a look at my resume and offering some suggestions or advice? 

Take a look at a brief sample of an informational interview over the phone. This sample is much shorter than most information interviews, but will give you an idea of the tone and flow of conversation.

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