Skillfully used, an informational interview is one of the most valuable sources of occupational information. While it may cover some of the same ground as printed material or information on a company website, it presents opportunities for an intimate and flexible inside view of a job field unmatched by other sources. The information interview communicates the firsthand experience and impressions of someone in the occupation and is directed by your questions.
Arranging the Interview:
Call the contact person directly and explain your objective of gathering information in a particular career field. Ask for 30 minutes or less and be courteous.
Preparing for the Interview:
Create specific questions in advance of the interview. Consider asking the following types of questions:
- What is a typical day like as a [job title]?
- How did you get started in this field?
- What is your specific background and experience?
- What entry-level jobs are best for learning as much as possible in this field?
- What skills are essential to succeed in this field?
- What is the typical career path for advancement?
- What do you like best about your work? Least?
- How many hours a week do you typically work?
- Can you describe your working environment?
- What are the obligations outside of work?
- What salary can someone expect at an entry level?
- What types of changes are occurring in this field?
- What is the employment outlook in this field over the next ten years?
- As you look back on your first few years after college, what would you do differently?
- What other occupations are closely related to this one?
- Are there other people you suggest I should talk to?
- What general advice would you have for someone considering this field of work?
Following-up on the Interview:
Not only do you want to let the professional know you appreciate the time he or she spent with you, but you may also want to utilize this individual as a valuable contact going forward. Send a thank you email or handwritten note within 24 hours of your interview.