What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is an interview conducted to collect information about a job, career field, industry or company.
It is different from a job interview in that it's an interview with an individual working in a career that you would like to learn more about. An informational interview is first and foremost a research tool – it is a method for you to gather specific information that you could not find on the internet or in books. Although it differs from a job interview, making a good impression in an informational interview is essential because the contacts you establish at this stage may possibly lead to paid work in this field in the future.
When to use an informational interview?
An informational interview can be used when trying to discover more about a specific type of job, a career field, an industry and/or a company. It is helpful when trying to find out what a person's job is like, what kind of work they do, what responsibilities they have and what it is like to work in their job.
What to ask?
Keep in mind the time allocated for the interview and remember that employers are busy and can talk for only a specific amount of time. During an informational interview you are responsible for taking the lead and asking the questions; therefore, it is therefore essential that you prepare your questions in advance. It is always a good idea to begin with jotting down points you would like further information on from a general perspective such as: "What program did you study at University?" or "What drew you to this particular field?". From there, you can narrow the scope of your questions to be more specific about the job, industry, or organization.
Here are some sample questions to consider along with the ones you will develop yourself along the way:
- What is your educational background?
- How did you get into this field?
- What has been your career path from college/university to the present?
- What are the major job responsibilities?
- Can you give me a description of a typical day?
- What are the satisfying and challenging aspects of your work?
- What particular skills or talents are most essential to be effective in your job?
- What are typical entry-level positions in this field?
- What are the educational, requirements for this job?
- What other types of credentials or licenses are required?
- What types of training, if any, do organizations offer persons entering this field?
- What can you tell me about the employment outlook in your occupational field?
- How much demand is there for people in this occupation?
- How rapidly is the field growing?
- Can you estimate future job openings?
- Are there professional journals that you subscribe to or associations in the field that you recommend contacting?
- Do you know of other people whom I might talk to for more information?