One of the best ways to learn about a particular occupation or career field is to talk to people working in the profession. As part of your career exploration, it is a good idea to set up some interviews strictly to obtain information.
Purpose of an Informational Interview
- To learn details about a specific job in a particular organization.
- To obtain information about what opportunities are available in a given field or organization.
- To find out what type of employees the company hires and the qualifications and experience desired.
- To develop contacts with people in key positions who either do the hiring or are asked for recommendations by those who do the hiring, as well as those who may hear about job openings.
Informational interviews are used for both career information gathering and for job search. Be very clear about your purpose before going to the interview and be truthful about your objective with the person you are interviewing.
Who to Contact
When preparing for an informational interview, you want to begin by making lists of:
- Occupations that interest you
- Companies that interest you
- Possible contact
- Friends of friends
- Co-workers of any of the above
- Faculty members/advisors
- Student Academic Services Advisors
- Sonoma State University Alumni
- People who do work that interests you
If you have never done on an informational interview, practice with a friend. However, if talking on the phone makes you nervous, write out a script for the initial phone contact. When making the appointment, tell the person a variation of the following:
"I am currently a student at Sonoma State University. I am very interested in finding out more information about _______. I was told by ______________ that you would be a good person to speak with regarding information on this profession. May I set up an appointment to meet with you at your convenience?"
What ever you do, always make an appointment and have your calendar handy. If possible, meet in person rather than interviewing by phone. You want to be prepared for a response suggesting you talk with Personnel. Also make sure to let the person know that what you are looking for is information.
Note: Most professionals are willing to be interviewed for information. Many want to help students and most enjoy talking about their work.
During the Interview
- Be prepared with specific questions. Find out as much about the company or career field as possible before the interview.
- Be on time and dress professionally.
- Bring a resume with you. Often you can leave it with the person you are interviewing.
- Respect the person's time.
- ALWAYS thank the person for his/her time. Ask if he/she knows anyone else you could talk to about the career field. This is the key to developing contacts.
After the Interview
- ALWAYS send a thank you letter that will help the person you interviewed remember you. Mention what you talked about, what you learned, or who you are going to see at his/her suggestion. Make sure your letter is in business format.
- Immediately after the interview, record all of your impressions and any facts acquired during the interview. Keep records of who you interviewed. Use an index card file or a special notebook. Enter: name, address, telephone number, some notes of what you talked about, and the date. The person may be helpful in the future.
Suggestions for Informational Interview Questions
- What is the title of your occupation? Where did you work before this job?
- How would you outline or describe a "typical day" at work? (e.g., your routine or the duties you perform or regular basis?)
- How much flexibility are you allowed on your job in terms of dress, hours, vacation, joblocation, etc.
- What portion of your job involves interacting with others, such as co-workers and/or the public
- What college courses (requirements, electives) were the most helpful to you in your present career
- Is special certification, licensing, or an advanced degree required for your job? If so, what
- What was your undergraduate major field of study? Have you always been interested in this area of study
- Did you have any practical experience or training, other that college, prior to your current job? How helpful or necessary was it.
- How did you get your current job?
- What are the opportunities for advancement in this field?
- What is the current and future demand for people in the occupation?
- What are the possible salary ranges and benefits for someone in your occupation?
- What do you like best about your work? Least?
- Are there any professional groups I, as an undergraduate, can join which would be beneficial to me?
- What advice would you give to a person planning to enter this type of work?
- Do you know where I can write for further information, such as pamphlets or books about this occupation?
- Do you know of any other people in this field who might be willing to talk to me about their experiences?
- How can I get experience in this field while I am still in college?