Informational interviewing is a process for gathering career information from reliable “inside” sources. It is a way to gain first-hand knowledge about a career by speaking with someone who is in your position of interest or who is familiar with the industry.
You can ask anyone you know to help you connect with someone who is knowledgeable about the career in which you are interested. Family, friends, fellow students, faculty, WMU alumni and co-workers are great resources and they can be experts themselves. If not, they may know someone who is and can make an introduction for you. Social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter are another source for making connections. LinkedIn groups will help you find alumni who are working in the industry and may be willing to talk with you (in person, by phone or through email) and share their perspective.
- Think about the connection as a way to build a relationship and expand your network.
- Informational interviews are not about asking for a job or a job lead; the point is to learn something.
- The person you have made a connection with is doing you a favor–follow their lead on whether meetings should take place in person, by phone or by email. It is about what is convenient for them.
- Do your homework before the meeting–try to learn more about the person you are meeting.
- Set the agenda and know what you want to ask.
- Be respectful and do not overstay your welcome; ask the person how much time they have.
- Always send a thank you note or email to the person who made the connection for you, as well as the person who granted the informational interview. These people are now part of your network.
These questions are only a starting point. Create a list of your own questions to ask during an informational interview and make sure to tailor them to the person and/or organization you are interviewing.
About the interviewee
- How did you get into this field/position?
- What is a typical day like for you?
- What professional organizations, books, journals or writers have had the greatest influence on your work?
About the job/occupation
- What is the preferred degree or major for entry into this field?
- Are there any entrance requirements?
- What are the most rewarding and least rewarding aspects of the job/occupation?
- What qualities and skills do you feel a person in this field should have/demonstrate?
- What is the average starting salary for an entry level position at your organization?
- What is the advancement potential for your position?
About the industry
- What are the typical issues faced in the work/industry? What are the best ways to learn more about the industry?
- If you could improve one thing in the industry, your workplace, or your department, what would it be?
- Who would you recommend I talk with to further my knowledge?
- Can I tell him/her that you referred me?
- Would you look over my resume and let me know what you would recommend me adding, changing or improving?
- What places would you recommend I observe, volunteer or intern? Why?
- What organizations would you recommend joining?
- What certifications do you recommend earning?