As you develop contacts, try to arrange informational interviews to gain further insight into occupations, opportunities and organizations.
Try to meet in person. This will provide insight into the culture and work environment. However, these conversations can be held over the phone or via email as well.
The primary goal of an informational interview is to gather information and obtain advice, while making a positive impression. While there may not be immediate job opportunities, positive connections can prove valuable later.
- Do your research. Develop tailored questions based on prior research of the individual and organization.
- Explore their path. Ask about the individual’s career path and impressions of the field.
- Be specific. Don't ask about things that can be easily gleaned on a website.
- Remain circumspect. Even if you are looking for a job or internship, it is not appropriate to ask for one during an informational interview.
Obtain advice and referrals.
- Seek advice. Based on the individual’s knowledge and experience, ask what they think your next steps should be.
- Meet others. Ask if there are other individuals or organizations they feel you should contact and whether you may state that you were referred by them.
Make a lasting impression.
- Show your career style. Always be professional and courteous of their time.
- Bring your resume. This helps your new contact understand your experience level and tailor their advice.
- Follow up with a thank-you email. This should be sent within 24 hours. Mention at least one piece of advice they gave you and how you will pursue their recommendations further.
- Stay in touch. Provide updates on your progress from time to time to maintain a connection.
Questions You Can Ask
Increase the chances that an informational interview will go smoothly by preparing questions in advance:
- How did you choose this career field?
- What has been your career path?
- What is the typical career path for someone starting in this field?
- How has the field changed since you started?
- Who are the leading organizations in the field?
- How does your organization compare with its competitors?
- If you were back in college, and had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
- What skills, personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this field or job?
- What is your opinion of my background and resume?
- Do you see any problem areas or weaknesses?
- What next steps would you recommend with regard to my (major or career) search?
- Is there anyone else you recommend that I speak with?
- May I use your name?