An information interview is a meeting you set up with someone who has experience in your area of interest. This is your chance to gain insight into working in the field and potential employers. Remember, you are asking for information and advice not a job.
Information interviews can happen face-to-face or over the phone and normally last between 30-60 minutes, depending on how much time the person has available to meet with you.
An information interview can help you in several ways:
- Information interviews can help expand your network and make new connections within your area of interest.
- You can learn about different jobs and identify the skills needed for the job you want.
- Contacts can provide information on how to target your cover letter and résumé
- You can also get tips to help prepare for job interviews.
How to Set Up Information Interviews
In order to arrange an information interview, you want to target people or companies in your area of interest.
Some suggestions for finding contacts:
- Make a list of your current connections and determine if any would be beneficial to interview.
- You can ask your current contacts to refer you to someone in your field who could help you.
- Use online resources such as LinkedIn, Twitter or directories to find companies or people within your area of interest.
- Use print sources such as phone books or business directories to find companies.
Once you have created a list of people or companies that you would like to contact, it is now time to reach out to them.
- Contact the people you wish to meet with through cold calling or emailing. Introduce yourself and be clear that you are searching for information, not a job.
- Remember to mention anyone that referred you.
- Lastly, if the person is unable to meet in person you can request a 15 – 30 minute telephone interview or ask if they could answer a list of questions through email.
Example Networking Letter
Please see the Networking Letter section for more on expanding your network through cold emailing:
Example Phone Call
“Good morning. My name is Fred Jones. I’m looking for work in the graphic design field and I’d like you advice. I know that you’re busy, but I only need a few moments of your time if that’s okay with you. I’ve had two years’ experience in desktop publishing designing brochures, newsletters and training materials. I’ve really enjoyed it, and would like to move into doing graphic design full-time. Would you be able to schedule 30-45 minute information interview with me to further discuss any advice you have for someone entering this field as well as trends and changes within the industry?”
Please see the ‘Cold Calling’ section for more on expanding your network through cold calling.
Preparing for an Information Interview
Consider the following steps to prepare for an information interview:
- Research the location: make sure you know exactly where you are meeting and plan your route ahead of time. If possible, arrive 15 minutes early.
- Use online tools (LinkedIn, Twitter, the company website) to gather information about the company and person you will be meeting.
- Spend time researching common trends or new changes within the industry.
- Prepare and Plan
- Prepare any materials you would like to show during the information interview. Bring your networking card (see Networking Cards) and a copy of your résumé. Even though you are not asking for employment, the contact person may request a résumé
- Set aside what you plan on wearing. It’s important to make a positive and professional first impression so dress the way you would for an interview in this industry.
- Prepare the questions you would like to ask. Avoid asking questions that can be easily answered by looking at the company’s website. Also, the interview should be conversational so don’t worry about sticking too close to the prepared questions, just go with the flow of the conversation and try to get the answers to your key questions when the opportunities arise.
Sample Information Interview Questions
- What parts of this job do you most enjoy?
- What parts of this job are the most difficult?
- How did you get into this type of work?
- What is the salary range for this field?
- What kind of education or training is required for this type of work?
- What personal qualities are important for being successful in this job?
- How do you stay current in your field of work?
- What entry-level jobs are best for learning as much as possible?
- What opportunities are there for advancement?
- What was your career path?
- How do you see jobs like this changing in the future?
- Is there a high demand for people in this field?
- What special advice would you give a person entering this field?
- What would help me learn more about this type of work?
- What the best way to find out about jobs within this field?
During the Information Interview
When starting your information interview be polite, introduce yourself and shake the person’s hand. If you are connecting with a receptionist first, be polite and wait patiently for the contact person. As you begin, introduce yourself and explain the purpose of the information interview. Give a summary of your experience and/or interest within the field.
Ask your questions and take notes. Remember that you are leading the interview and it’s your role to guide the process by asking questions. Keep your body language professional and open, this should be a friendly conversation.
Start wrapping up the discussion as you approach the agreed upon time for the meeting. Make sure to ask the contact for a business card and give them your networking card. This is also a good time to ask for the names of other potential contacts and permission to use their name when reaching out to the referrals they provided. Lastly, thank the contact for their time and the information they provided.
After the Information Interview
Once you have left the interview, take a moment to reflect on the interview and write down any points that may have been missed during the conversation. You could also create a list of questions that you still want answered for your next information interview.
Within 24-48 hours, email the contact person a thank you letter, thanking them again for their time and advice, as well as highlighting key findings and your interest in the field. (see thank-you letters).