What is informational interviewing?
Put simply, the purpose of an informational interview is to gather information about a career or field you are interested in from a person working in that field, career path, or industry.
In an informational interview you are asking specific questions to learn more about:
- how to enter a career path or a field,
- what skills are required,
- the nature of the job or industry,
- norms within that area or career path,
- if there are particular styles or formats for application materials,
- where to find job listings
In informational interviews, be respectful and prepared - show an interest in the field or industry while specific asking questions so you can determine if that particular career path is a good fit for you. For instance, you might ask if many or most of the positions in the field or career area in question require 50% or more time traveling? Is this attractive or a deal-breaker for you? Are most of the opportunities for a particular job located in New York City and Washington D.C.? Are these places you are comfortable living?
While some find the concept of informational interviewing to be odd or abnormal, outside of academia it is a very normal practice. It is not unlike doing participant interviews for academic research, the only difference is that the subject you are trying to learn more about is a career area that interests you.
Why is it important?
Informational interviewing is important for a number of reasons. First, it is a good way to network that is often more personal and effective than attending larger networking events. Second, you can gain information about the field and application process or typical entry points into that field that you would otherwise not know about. For example, positions with international relief agencies are often very difficult to get and very competitive - often one of the best ways into this particular field is to volunteer or intern for an organization. Additionally, there might be skills or experience that might not be explicitly included in a job position description, but can make you a more attractive candidate.
At this point you might be asking yourself: How does one get an informational interview? What should I do or ask? Great questions! We have the answers - below you will also find resources both online and on campus to help you find and connect with people, how to prepare for informational interviews, what types of questions to ask, and more best practices.
How to Get an Informational Interview, What Questions to Ask, Tips, and Best Practices
Before we get into the resources - tip #1: Do NOT ask for a job during the informational interview. Ever.
Ok! Here we go:
- University Career Center Resources on Information Interviewing
- Informational Interviewing 101
- The Importance of Informational Interviews and Networking for Science Professionals
- How To Do an Informational Interview
- The Basics of Informational Interviewing
- Informational Interview Tips
- Inside Higher Ed: Tips for Effective Informational Interviews - Great discussion of things to NOT do and also things you SHOULD do in an informational interview.
- For those of you utilizing ImaginePhD - there are many resources on informational interviews in the Explore section of many of the Job Families under the Resources tab.
If you have questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Our last tip: always, ALWAYS, send a thank you note or email to your those who give you an interview.