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How to Conduct an Informational Interview

Once you've scheduled an informational interview, you you can turn your 30 minutes into networking gold with the following three steps.  

Plan Your Questions. 

It's best to plan some open-ended questions, though you should certainly let the conversation flow naturally by asking follow-up questions about things that particularly interest you. Here are some questions to try, or you can check out this video of a sample informational interview.   

  • What are your main responsibilities as a...?
  • What is a typical day (or week) like for you?
  • What do you like most about your work?
  • What do you like least about your work?
  • What kinds of problems do you deal with?
  • What kinds of decisions do you make?
  • How does your position fit within the organization/career field/industry?
  • How does your job affect your general lifestyle?
  • What current issues and trends in the field should I know about/be aware of?
  • What are some common career paths in this field?
  • What kinds of accomplishments tend to be valued and rewarded in this field?
  • What related fields do you think I should consider looking into?
  • How did you become interested in this field?
  • How did you begin your career?
  • How do most people get into this field? What are common entry-level jobs?
  • What steps would you recommend I take to prepare to enter this field?
  • How relevant to your work is your undergraduate major?
  • What kind of education, training, or background does your job require?
  • What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/this field?
  • What is the profile of the person most recently hired at my level?
  • What are the most effective strategies for seeking a position in this field?
  • Can you recommend trade journals, magazines or professional associations which would be helpful for my professional development?
  • If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? If not, what would you change?

Conduct the Informational Interview like a Pro: 

  • Dress neatly and appropriately, as you would for a job interview.
  • Arrive on time or a few minutes early.
  • Restate that your objective is to get information and advice, not a job.
  • Give a brief overview of yourself and your education and/or work background.
  • Be prepared to direct the interview, but also let the conversation flow naturally, and encourage the interviewee to do most of the talking.
  • Take notes if you'd like.
  • Respect the person's time. Keep the meeting length within the agreed-upon timeframe.
  • Ask the person if you may contact them again in the future with other questions.
  • Ask for names of other people to meet so as to gain different perspectives.

Note: You can bring a resume, but don’t take it out right away or your interviewee may think you are actually fishing for a job. You can always send your resume and LinkedIn profile later along with your thank you note.  

Follow Up 

After any interview or networking event write down your notes on what you learned and who you met. Send a follow-up note and connection to anyone you spoke with. After an informational interview, add the person as a connection on LinkedIn if you have not already.

Make sure to send a thank-you note within 48-hours. Make sure to take them for their time and any other connections or advice, and mention at least one specific idea or piece of information that you found helpful. If they mentioned anyone else that they would suggest talking to, be sure to ask for that person's contact information. You can find a sample thank you note below.  

Example of a Thank-You Note:

Email Subject: Thank you for your time!

Dear X, 

Thanks so much for making the time to help me learn from your experience. I really appreciated your honesty about the ups and downs of hospital and home care - it will help me go into the field with clear expectations.  

I would very much like to follow up with your friend Lawrence from Community Health Services, so thank you in advance for sending along his email address. Finally, I'm very grateful you invited me to keep in touch as I figure out my next steps. I will plan to get back in touch at the end of the year to let you know where I am applying.

Thanks again for your time!

Sincerely, 

XX 

This article was adapted from the UC Berkeley Career planning website.