What Is an Informational Interview?
An informational interview is a meeting or conversation between a job seeker or someone seeking career advice and a professional working in their field of interest. It is less formal than an actual job interview because the purpose of it is not to discuss candidacy for a particular job, but to gather insights, advice, and information about a particular career path, industry, or company from someone with firsthand experience. The primary goal of these meetings is to build professional relationships, gather information, and receive advice from industry professionals.
During an informational interview, the interviewer asks questions and seeks guidance from the interviewee. The conversation typically covers topics such as the interviewee's career journey, their current role and responsibilities, challenges and opportunities in the field, required skills and qualifications, and advice for entering or advancing in the industry.
Informational interviews are a powerful tool to enhance your industry knowledge, expand your network, align your career goals, uncover hidden opportunities, and boost your interview skills. An added bonus is the expansion of your network with those you interview. Embrace these interviews as a way to bridge the gap between your education and the professional world, setting yourself up for success in Emerson industries.
Why Is It Important?
- Building a network helps you now and in the future, and is a key component of a future job and internship search.
- These meetings provide insider information on your target career field, ultimately helping you in the creation of your professional materials and in future job interviews.
- It is a great, informal way to practice interacting with professionals in the workplace.
Informational Interview Arc
It’s always important to prepare for interviews and informational interviews. Ensuring you are prepared to discuss your professional history, interests, and the interviewee and their company will ensure you gather the highest quality information and create a strong impression that you are smart and a capable professional.
- Conduct a thorough self-evaluation. Review your skills, goals, and interests in a particular career field or industry. This meeting is not about you; however, if the contact asks about your goals, you should be able to answer them in a direct, well-thought-out way.
- Write your professional story: What brought you to Emerson? What are you studying now? What have you learned from your experience (in and outside the classroom)? What would you like to do after graduation? What are your strengths and within your industry? What type of roles do you like to play? What are you open to doing? What do you not want to do? International students: Any work you do inside the US must be directly related to your major or program. Meet with your career advisor to discuss your options. Review the interviewee’s experience on their LinkedIn profile. Research their employer’s mission, vision, and what they do.
- Confirm meeting 24 hours ahead of time.
- Think critically: what does their career path look like (you can create questions based on this); what non-industry specific roles have they had?
- Draft 4–6 questions to ask: What do you want to know about the interviewee? What kind of advice do you want from them? Example questions to ask: What’s your career journey, and what led you to this role How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your industry and/or your job? What are your favorite parts of your job? What are the tasks that you don’t like doing? If and when you and your company hire, what are the key skills you’re looking for? What advice do you have for me and my career? Is there anyone in your network you think I should talk to? Are you willing to make an introduction?
Informational Interview (45%)
- Briefly reiterate the reasons why you reached out (why that person specifically) and what you’re hoping to get out of the meeting.
- Share your professional journey.
- Ask them questions.
- Thank them for their time.
- Respect their time by ending on time.
Keep in Touch (15%)
Congratulations, you’ve conducted another informational interview! Thanks to your meeting, you’re likely on the top of their mind for the day or week. However, it’s important to stay in touch to keep you at the top of their mind to continue your professional relationship.
- Send a follow-up email within 24 hours.
- Connect on Linkedin if not already connected.
- When relevant: send an update email with your new job.
- Reach out at least once a year.
Types of Questions to Ask
- How did you enter this field?
- How did you reach your current position in this field?
- What does a typical workday look like for you?
- What are your major responsibilities in this job?
- What trends do you foresee in this field over the next 5 or 10 years?
- What do you find most satisfying about your job? Most frustrating?
- What do people consider “success” in your industry?
- Undergraduate Students: What are typical entry-level jobs in the field?
- Graduate Students: What are typical jobs in the field that require a master’s degree?
- If I decide to pursue this type of work, what suggestions do you have for conducting my job search?
- What’s one thing you wish somebody would have told you before going into this field?
- Can you recommend anyone else I should speak with for additional information?
- What courses or work experience would you recommend?
For guidance and more personalized questions, contact your career advisor.