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What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is NOT an interview, it is a meeting with a contact who can help you find out more about a career or organization, and can increase your exposure to jobs that are not publicly advertised.
An informational interview can help you build confidence, expand your network of contacts, uncover career paths, and find out if a particular career matches your own interests, skills and goals.
Who do I interview?
There are plenty of people you can talk to, but it's best to make a targeted list. Find people in positions or companies you are interested in, but do not go too high up the ladder. Find a person to interview by utilizing your network of contacts, the KSU Alumni Association, or visit with a career advisor to help you locate someone in your field of interest.
How do I get an interview?
Keep in mind that successful people enjoy talking about themselves and their experiences, so your request can be quite flattering as long as it is worded properly. Be sure to treat your interview as a formal business meeting, be on time and dress professionally.
Ask: Make sure you ask for something in the easiest possible way for them to accept. "Can I meet with you at your office for 20-30 minutes to hear about your experiences in this industry and what it's like to work at your company? I can work around your schedule. Since people innately enjoy helping others, give them a week before following up. Be gracious yet persistent.
Be Clear: Let this person know exactly why you contacted them. Maybe you admire the path they took, or their work stands out in a meaningful way to you. Personalize the request as much as possible. Do not ask for too much time, although the meeting sometimes last longer once the conversation gets going.
Don't: Avoid asking for employment, even if that is your desire. You may be trying to lay the groundwork for future employment, but this process is merely meant to help you learn about this person's career path or employer, while gleaning helpful suggestions and a fresh perspective.
How should I follow up after the interview?
Send a thank you note within 24-48 hours after the interview. Make sure you report back to that person on anything you pursue as a result of the interview. Stay organized with a record of contact names, phone numbers, email addresses, titles, company names, notes, and any referrals you received from that person.
Reflect on what you've learned and stay in touch with this person if you are seriously considering this occupation.
Questions to Ask
Qualifications, Skills and Abilities
- What degree is required or recommended for entry into this occupation?
- What entry-level positions qualify a person for a career in this occupation?
- Are there internships available in your field?
- What type of training does your organization provide new staff?
- What skills are needed for success in this occupation?
- What role does GPA play in obtaining employment in this occupation?
- What other types of credentials or licenses are required?
- What advice would you give someone entering this occupation?
- What is the best way to prepare for a career in this occupation?
- Could you suggest anyone else in your field that I could speak with for additional information? May I mention your name when I contact this person?
- I have a list of organizations I have researched that sound interesting. Are you familiar with them or know anyone who works for these organizations?
- May I contact you again if I have additional questions?
- What professional organizations would you recommend joining?
- What other resources should I be aware of? (local and national associations? relevant websites? directories? books/articles?)
- What are the duties/responsibilities of your career?
- What is your typical day like?
- What kinds of challenges do you deal with?
- What kinds of decisions do you make?
- What aspects of your occupation do you enjoy? Dislike?
- What are the salary ranges for various positions in your field?
- Do you have a position description that you would be willing to share with me?
- Why did you decide to work for this organization?
- How does your organization differ from its competitors?
- Why do customers choose this organization?
- Does the organization encourage employees to pursue graduate degrees? Are tuition benefits available?
- What does the organization do to contribute to employee development?
- Is there flexibility related to dress, work hours, vacation schedule, etc.?
- How would you describe your work atmosphere and people you work with?
Advancement and Transferable Skills
- Are there other areas of this occupation people transfer into or out of?
- What are some of the opportunities for advancement in this occupation?
Background of Interviewee
- Why did this type of work interest you?
- How long have you worked in the field?
- How did you get your first professional position?
- What experiences have led you to your present position?
- What are the current trends in your occupation?
- Is there currently a demand for people in this occupation?
- How is the economy affecting your industry?
- How do you see the responsibilities in your field changing over the next five years? What can I do to prepare myself for these changes?