Informational Interviews

What is an informational interview? An informational interview is a conversation with someone working in a field or at a company that you would like to learn more about. It is NOT a job interview.

Benefits of Informational Interviews

  • Learn firsthand about what it is like to do a particular kind of work in a particular organization.
  • Gather information about what the opportunities are in a given field or organization.
  • Find out about jobs and career paths you did not know existed.
  • Promote your skills and abilities in a low-threat, open-ended situation.
  • Begin to build or expand your network of professional contacts.

Who Can I Contact for an Informational Interview?

People doing work that interests you, who are working at an organization that you would like to know more about, or who might know someone in your field of interest.

Examples include:

  • Friends, acquaintances, relatives, coworkers of yours or your friends
  • Members of professional associations related to your field
  • USF Alumni-find alumni through the LinkedIn alumni tool

How to Ask for an Informational Interview

When asking for an informational interview it is important to let the person you are reaching out to know why you are contacting them and what you hope to gain from a conversation. Be specific rather than saying "I'd love your help." Saying you'd like to hear more about their position or organization will indicate you’ve done your research before contacting them. You should also be specific in asking for a meeting or call. Remember a 15-minute call may be easier to arrange than an hour-long meeting.

How to Prepare for the Interview

Prior to the interview, you should do some research on the industry, organization and person you are meeting. The information you obtain from your research will form the basis for the questions you ask during the interview, and your interviewing contact will be invaluable for supplementing your research with a "real world" perspective.

How to Act During the Informational Interview

  • You are not asking this person for a job. You are gathering information on which to base some decisions. Make sure friends and relatives understand this.
  • Always be respectful of the person’s time. If you agreed to a 15-minute call, be sure to be ready at the appointed time and not to let the conversation carry on longer than 15 minutes.
  • Do not bring your resume to the interview unless your contact has agreed in advance to give you feedback on it. A resume can make an informational interview suddenly feel like a job interview, which is not what you want. If you want your contact to have a copy of your resume, ask if you can send one after the interview. This will give you the opportunity to make any appropriate changes in the document based on what you learned during the session.
  • Be prepared to take the lead in the conversation. Remember, you are doing the interviewing. Know what you want to ask. The person being interviewed will feel it was worthwhile if you ask thoughtful questions, but not if you ask only superficial ones. Having notes with you is fine and can be very helpful.
  • Toward the end of the conversation, always ask for additional contacts. This is the key to developing more contacts and building your network.
  • Always write a thank you note or email after the interview. Mention what you talked about, what you learned, or who you are going to see at the person's suggestion. If you are interested in pursuing a job with their organization, try to keep the door open to get back in touch.

Suggested Questions

  • What do you do on a typical day?
  • What are the most interesting/challenging/frustrating aspects of your job?
  • What previous jobs led you to this one?
  • How long does it usually take to move from one position to the next on this career path?
  • Given your present position and experience, what position do you see yourself in five years from now?
  • What are the prerequisites for jobs in this field?
  • Are there any specific courses I might take or skills I should develop that would be particularly beneficial in this field?
  • What types of training do companies give to persons entering this field?
  • What aspects of a career in this field do you consider particularly positive? Particularly negative?
  • What advice would you give to a young person/career changer entering this field?
  • What do you think made you a competitive candidate for this position?
  • What are the future growth prospects for this field?
  • What other fields or jobs would you suggest I find out more about before I make a final decision?
  • How do you see the jobs in this field changing over the next two years? What can I do to prepare myself for such changes?
  • Can you recommend a few professional associations to join that would be helpful for my professional development?
  • What is the best way to obtain a position that will start me on a career in this field?
  • Can you recommend other people with whom I should talk?
  • When I've done some more research, may I contact you again?