Informational interviewing is a powerful way to build and expand your professional network, learn more about your chosen field or industry, uncover potential job leads and clarify 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 never responds to you.
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
TipAlthough the purpose of these conversations is to gain advice and suggestions and not to ask about a job, if the individual you’re meeting with asks if you’re interested in a specific job, you can welcome that opportunity to talk about that option.
If you do not know the person, it is more considerate to make the initial contact via email to avoid the possibility of contacting them at an awkward or inconvenient time.
In the email, you’ll generally want to explain who you are, why you are contacting this person, and how you found their name. Additionally, give a very brief description of your work/education history and why you’re interested in speaking to him/her, and then request a 20-30 minute meeting to get information and advice about his/her career, field, or organization. Make sure that your correspondence is error free.
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.
Subject: Request for Informational Interview – Northeastern student
Dear Mr. Doe,
I found your name through the Northeastern Career Development 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 Career Development 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.
- 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 his/her 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, and be considerate of time constraints.
- Arrive on time in an outfit appropriate for the organization, and be ready with your 60-second professional introduction and questions.
- 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 ruin credibility.
- Bring a resume, but present it only if asked.
- Keep track of the time. Stay longer only if invited to do so.
- Before leaving, ask for a business card and ask if they can refer you to anyone else to speak with.
- Follow-up with each referral and/or new contact you receive from the people you informational interview with. Make sure to get their permission to reference your meetings when applying for a position.
- 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.
- 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.
- Try to stay in touch with your contacts every few months by sending a friendly email. For example, you could see how your contact is enjoying his/her summer, holiday, etc., and fill him/her in (briefly) on some relevant academic or professional updates that you have. You could also be in touch if you notice that they’ve written an article, or were recently promoted, etc.
- Finally, when you secure your new position, select your major, or have chosen your career path, notify the people you’ve spoken with; they’ll want to hear what happened and know how you are doing.