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Informational Interviewing Tips

"Information Interviewing" is a technique used to explore and research occupations and organizations. Information interviewing is discussed in nearly all career planning and job search books as a strategy that works. It involves talking with people who are in an occupation you are considering, potential employers, or simply contacts who may help provide information or further contacts for you. Information interviewing has several benefits, including:

  • Discovering "first hand" information about an occupation. Reference books can provide facts about an occupation, such as salary and demand, but information interviews provide a personalized perspective of an occupation or job.
  • Access to the "hidden" job market. Only 20% of all job openings are advertised! Direct contact and networking is essential to finding out about unadvertised job openings. Information Interviewing is not a job interview, but it can be a helpful first step in eliciting information about a prospective employer.
  • Improvement of self-confidence and interviewing skills.

This handout explains how to set up and conduct an information interview. The more prepared you are for an information interview, the more you will get out of it!

 

STEP 1: Plan Your Goals. Determine your purpose for the information interview.

STEP 2: Identify Occupations, Job Titles, or Potential Employers. Begin by identifying occupations, job titles or potential employers that you want to explore. Research these areas as thoroughly as you can before you begin your information interviews to better prepare yourself for the interviews.

STEP 3: Identify Potential Contacts. Begin to identify contacts through family, friends, instructors, employer directories,  employer listings, telephone directories, and other networking contacts within the community. You may have to contact the organization directly to identify someone you can interview. Once you have researched your area thoroughly, you should be familiar with professional titles for the types of people you're trying to contact. As an example, if you are interested in a marketing position, you might contact a particular company and ask for the name of the director of the marketing department. Usually you don't have to identify yourself to elicit the name, title and business mailing address of the individual. Once you've developed a list of contacts, it's time to set up the interviews.

STEP 4: Schedule Information Interviews. You can either write a letter or call to arrange an appointment with the individual; however, direct telephone calls are usually the most effective. Once you have contacted the individual, state your purpose. You might begin your conversation like this:

  • Student: "Hi, Ms. Smith, my name is __________, and I'm a University of Florida student. I'm very interested in the marketing field and I'm trying to find out as much as I can about it. I have read a lot about the area, but I really feel it might help to talk to someone who works in the field. I would appreciate meeting with you to discuss this occupation, if you have the time. The interview would only take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. My schedule is flexible and I can meet with you at your convenience."

Be sure to make it clear that you're not looking for a job at this time, but that you are just trying to obtain information.

STEP 5: Prepare Your Questions. Based upon your goals for the interview and the results of your research of the area, prepare your questions for the interview. Try to make them open-ended questions, meaning those which can be answered other than by "yes" or "no." The suggestions below may give you some ideas:

  • What is a typical day in the life of a ?
  • How did you get interested in this occupation?
  • What do you like and dislike about your occupation?
  • What is a typical career path in this occupation?
  • What kind of academic/training preparation do you recommend for this occupation?
  • What is the projected growth in this occupation?
  • What skills should I be developing?
  • Are there any clubs or organizations you would recommend?
  • What is the organizational structure and where does your position fit in the organization?
  • Is there someone else you can suggest for me to contact?
  • If you were going to hire a new entry level person, what would a highly qualified candidate be like?
  • What are the major challenges/problems that your organization is facing in the coming year?

STEP 6: Conducting the Interview. You should try to dress in business attire. Arrive early for the interview. When you meet your interview contact, you should shake hands and exchange greetings. Take notes during the interview. At the end of the interview, shake hands again, and express your appreciation for the interview. You should send a thank you note to the contact following the interview.

Next: Interviews During A Meal


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