Conducting an Informational Interview
The very best way to get accurate information about a career field is to talk to someone who is currently working in that field. No one else can give you a better sense of the ups and downs and ins and outs of that field. Most professionals enjoy helping an aspiring newcomer as long as you are asking for information and not a job. Here are some tips on how to obtain and conduct an informational interview. If you have any questions, please consult the Career Center.
Identify occupations you want to explore and people you want to interview. This can be anybody who has a job that you find interesting. Try using the Alumni Career Network on Viking Web to identify Berry alumni who might have similar career interests. Also, check with your professors to see if they know of anyone in the community who might be helpful. If you have trouble identifying potential interviewees, talk with someone in the Career Center.
E-mail the person you wish to interview. Introduce yourself and explain that you are interested in their career field and are looking for information. Let them know how you got their name if you don't know them. Explain that you would like to arrange a time for a telephone interview or a time you could talk in person. You should ask for no longer than 30 minutes when you call to arrange an interview time.
Follow up with a phone call during the time frame determined and state the purpose of your call. Be prepared to leave a message if you can't get through to the person to whom you wish to talk. Ask for the best time to call back. Do not ask to be called back since you initiated the interview.
Prepare for the interview by researching the organization and career field. What do you want to know? Research job preparation, life style, job outlook, job routine, job search techniques, resume writing, and interviewing depending on whether you are there to learn about the career field or to get advice on your job search (see sample questions on back). If you go in person, dress professionally for the interview, watch your time, take notes and pay attention to your body language. Focus your questions on the company and the individual's career path. Try to leave the interview with the name of at least one other person to contact. You might ask, "Would you be able to suggest names of other people I could talk with about my interest in this area?" Don’t ask for a job!
Write a thank you note within 48 hours of your interview. This is not optional. Refer to particularly helpful information you learned. This will make the interviewer feel appreciated and help keep you in mind if an internship or a job does become available. A sample letter is available in the Career Center.
- What preparation is necessary for entry level jobs in this field?
- How important is graduate school in this field?
- Could you recommend some courses that I should be taking now in preparation for a career in this field?
- How do your education and experience relate to what you are doing now?
- How did you get into this field and into this position? What are some alternative routes into the field?
- What kind of background, training, special programs or other learning experiences does one need to enter the field?
- What professional journals, books, newspapers or publications do people in your field generally read?
- Are any professional associations particularly influential?
- Is there any advice you would give someone just entering the field, something you wish someone had mentioned when you were starting?
- What kind of "lifestyle" choices have you had to make? How many hours do you work in a typical week? Do you take work home at night?
- Is there travel involved in your job and if so, how often are you traveling?
- What is the typical salary range for an entry-, mid-, and upper-level position?
- What is appropriate dress?
- Has your work experience differed from your expectations? In what way?
- Do you anticipate employment in this field to grow, decrease, or remain stable?
- What are the opportunities for advancement? Is there a high turnover rate and if so, why?
- What types of employers hire people in your line of work?
- You mentioned that you made a transition into this field from another career path. How difficult was this?
- Describe how you spend your time during a typical work day/week.
- What major satisfactions do you derive from working in this field?
- What are some of the issues/problems that you must deal with in your work?
- (If you are interested in the company) Could you tell me a little about the management style here? How are promotions decided? What does one need to be successful in this field?
Job Search Techniques:
- What strategies would you use if you were in a job search for a position in this field?
- Would you mind reviewing my resume and giving me feedback?
- What types of questions should I expect when interviewing for a job in this field?
- Could you give me the names of others who might tell me more about your field? May I say you suggested I contact them?