An informational interview is a 20-30 minute meeting where you are interviewing an individual either in person, virtually through Skype, or over the phone to learn more about your industry/career of interest, discover potential job leads, and clarifying your career development goals.
- Most people like to give advice and feel good about helping others. In addition, people often enjoy talking about themselves, which is what an informational interview gives them a chance to do.
- Most successful professionals have conducted informational interviews when they were starting out, and many will be willing to do the same for you.
- The worst-case scenario is that your contact is too busy to meet with you or does not respond to your inquiry.
Possible Topics for Discussion
- How your major/concentration relates to a specific career and/or industry
- Preparing for a specific career
- Companies and positions that might be a good fit
- What the organizational climate is like at a particular company
- Making a career change and learning the most appropriate way to navigate a new career field
TipThe purpose of informational interviewing is not to ask about a specific job, but to gain advice, insight, and suggestions about a career/industry. However, individuals you may meet with may voluntarily tell you about opportunities for a specific job. Respond graciously and feel free to ask if you may continue to talk about that option with them.
Contacting Someone for an Informational Interview
Email Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts
Once you’ve identified a professional you’d like to meet, write a clear, succinct email or letter to request a meeting:
- Keep your messages short and clear.
- Use a typeface and formatting that is easy to read (use at least a 12pt font).
- Make the subject line descriptive so the recipient will know why you are writing (example, “Referred by [Name] to discuss [Topic]” or “Fellow Alum From [College] Who Enjoys [Industry].”
- Save the high priority/urgent option for real emergencies.
- Do not use text abbreviations or emojis.
- Do not write all in capitals – it is the email equivalent of SHOUTING.
- Do not attach your resume to a request letter; you can share it later.
- Specify the amount of time you are requesting, should be no more than 30 minutes.
- Specify if you are requesting in person, skype or phone call.
- Re-read the email before sending; check the tone and ensure that it is error-free.
See sample emails below
Subject: Request for Informational Interview – Northeastern student
Dear Mr. Doe,
I found your name through the Northeastern Employer Engagement and Career Design group on LinkedIn and saw that you received your Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Northeastern before beginning your career as a Social Worker with the Department of Children and Families. I am currently a sophomore at Northeastern, majoring in Human Services and Criminal Justice, and will be going on my first co-op next semester.
I am looking to speak to professionals to learn more about the field of Social Work and was wondering if we could set up a 20 to 30 minute meeting, at your convenience, to discuss the field, including your advice and suggestions on additional co-ops that may be helpful, and graduate school. I look forward to hearing from you.
Subject: Request for Informational Interview – Northeastern student
Dear Mr. Doe,
I found your name through the Northeastern University Alumni LinkedIn group and saw that you received your Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science before beginning your career as the Director of Programs for XYZ Corp. I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Northeastern in May and am interested in getting advice and suggestions from professionals in the field as I begin my job search.
Your work at XYZ Corp. especially interests me because of your focus on creating programs focused on climate change. I have been an active member of the Husky Environmental Action Team, and involved with several projects with the Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative. I would really appreciate it if we could set up a 20 to 30 minute meeting, at your convenience, to discuss any advice and suggestions that you might have as I look to enter this field and begin my job search. I look forward to hearing from you.
Subject: Request for Informational Interview – Northeastern Graduate student
Dear Mr. Doe,
I found your name through the Northeastern University Alumni LinkedIn group and saw that you received your Master of Science in Biotechnology before beginning your career as a Scientific Associate for XYZ Corp. I will be completing my graduate program in Biotechnology from Northeastern in May and am interested in receiving advice and suggestions from professionals in the field as I begin my job search.
Your work at XYZ Corp. especially interests me because of your focus on researching implantable devices that repel bacteria. I have been an active member of the Biotech Entrepreneurs club and involved with different projects through co-op involving studies of bacteria. I would really appreciate it if we could set up a 20 to 30 minute meeting, at your convenience, to discuss any advice and suggestions that you might have as I look to enter this field and begin my job search. I look forward to hearing from you.
Subject: Request for Informational Interview – Referred by Professor Doe
Dear Mr. Jones,
I recently completed Professor Doe’s Mergers and Acquisitions course and he highly recommended that I speak to you to get your advice and suggestions as I begin my job search. I will be graduating from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in May.
I am interested in working in corporate finance, and your work at XYZ Corp. especially interests me because of its strong reputation in the field and the opportunity to work on complex matters with a diverse client base. Through co-op I gained experience completing due diligence for corporate transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, and was an active member of the Finance and Investment Club. I would really appreciate it if we could set up a 20 to 30 minute meeting, at your convenience, to discuss any advice and suggestions that you might have as I begin my job search. I look forward to hearing from you.
Subject: Request for Informational Interview – Northeastern Alum
Dear Mr. Doe,
I found your name through the Northeastern Employer Engagement and Career Design group on LinkedIn and saw that you received your Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Northeastern before beginning your career as a Director of Human Resources at ABC Corp. I graduated from Northeastern with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies in May 2008, and since that time I have been working as an Executive Assistant to the Vice President of XYZ Corp.
Over the past six years, I have had increasing responsibility, including assisting with training and on-boarding new employees, as well as working with the Vice President to develop and facilitate programs for employees relating to benefits. Now, I am interested in leveraging the strong organizational, communication and analytical skills that I’ve developed to obtain a position in Human Resources. I would really appreciate it if we could set up a 20 to 30 minute meeting, at your convenience, to discuss any advice and suggestions that you might have as I explore this field. I look forward to hearing from you.
If you already know the person, you can first contact him/her by phone.
TipWhether you make the initial contact by phone or email, if you haven’t heard back in about two weeks, it is completely appropriate to follow-up. If you don’t hear back after the second attempt, move on to your other potential contacts.
- Research the individual you’re meeting with on LinkedIn and look at the organization’s website. You should generally research the career and industry online so that you’re up-to-date on issues, trends, etc.
- Prepare a written list of questions in advance. Remember, you’re the one doing the interviewing!
- Keep in mind that your goals for this meeting are to get information and advice that you can’t find online and to make a great first impression. Being well-informed about the individual and their field shows respect for their time and makes the meeting more productive.
Decide what information you would like to find out from this person. Open-ended questions stimulate the conversation. Ask questions about job content, career path, preparation, fit and next steps.
- Could you describe a typical workday or work week?
- What part of your job do you find most satisfying/challenging?
- What abilities or personal qualities do you believe contribute most to success in this job?
- What is the typical career path in this field?
- How did you get into this industry?
- What steps did you take to get your present job?
- Can you tell me about entry-level opportunities in this field?
- What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in starting out in this field?
- What do you see as the coming trends in the industry?
- Do you have any special words of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?
- Are there any professional associations and/or journals that you would recommend?
- Are there any job hunting strategies that you would suggest to enter this field?
- When do companies in this industry typically do their entry-level hiring?
- What are some of the top qualities that your company looks for in entry-level candidates?
- Do you happen to know the entry-level salary range for this profession/industry?
- What would you like to see change in the organization in the future?
- How would you describe the work environment at your company?
- What types of projects/assignments do you work on?
- What are opportunities for corporate social responsibility in this company?
- How do you see the values of this organization embedded in your work?
- Is there anyone else you can recommend I speak to for additional information?
- Would you mind if I sent you my resume to review?
- May I send you a LinkedIn connection request?
- Be ready to lead the meeting since you asked for the informational interview.
- Bring an updated resume, but present it only if asked.
- Regardless of whether you are meeting face-to-face or virtually, arrive on time in an outfit appropriate for the organization. Be ready with your professional introduction and list of questions. It helps to have done your research ahead of time so that you are not wasting time asking questions that have clear or obvious answers.
- If you wish to take notes on their answers, ask your contact if they mind ahead of time.
- Keep track of time. Stay longer only if you are invited to do so.
- Do not ask for a job. Remember, you indicated that you were looking for advice and information when you contacted them. By asking for a job, you risk embarrassment and ruining your credibility as a professional.
- Before leaving, ask for a business card and if appropriate, ask if they would be able to refer you to anyone else to speak with for more information or to build your network.
- After your meeting, jot down some notes (name of your contact, date, and useful information or advice, etc.) to remember what you talked about and to help you write a thank you note.
- Write a thank you note after each informational interview and email it within 24 hours. Express your appreciation for the assistance you received and mention one or two points that you learned during your conversation.
- It is appropriate to update contacts about your progress from time to time and even to ask further for advice. You may also notify your contacts when you accept a new job and thank them again for their help.