Get Familiar with Informational Interviewing

This blog post has been updated by Will Lewis, Associate Director of Employer Relations & Communications for relevancy, inclusivity, and formatting on Feb 28, 2024

I know that I’m probably late, but a few weeks ago a good friend of mine introduced me to something called informational interviewing. I knew that talking to people about jobs was of course a “thing,” but I didn’t know there was an actual name for it and a correct way to do it. For those of you who were like me and don’t really have an idea what I’m walking about, this post is for you.

An informational interview is a meeting between you and someone who has the knowledge and experience to provide you with valuable information on a job or career you are interested in obtaining or a company you are interested in working for. It is a great way to seek out information about a desired position or company without having to rely on being selected for a formal interview. In fact, in an informational interview you will take the chair of Interviewer. And although your interviewee may not always be a key decision maker in a hiring process for a company of interest, they can sure put in a good word! Landing an informational interview may take a little work, but is very beneficial most of the time.

You will start by figuring out who you want to talk to. That person is usually someone who is or has been in the role that you are currently looking to obtain. Next, you want to figure out what is the best way to make initial contact with them. Most of the time, LinkedIn will do the trick. Just a side note, look for UGA alumni. Most of them are very willing and excited to talk with and help out students. Once you reach out to your person asking them for an interview, it’s time to start preparing. Research them and the company; have a game plan and good key questions to ask. Last but not least, remember to express gratitude! Informational interviews aren’t necessary, they’re just helpful.

Below is a list of things to keep in mind and potential questions to ask in an informational interview, courtesy of an article by Marci Alboher of The New York Times: 

Key points to keep in mind when conducting Informational Interviews

1. The other person is doing you a favor, so it should be about what’s convenient for the interviewer, not you. Follow his or her lead as to whether meetings will be in person or by phone.
2. These meetings are not about asking for job leads; the point is to learn something.
3. Think about informational interviews as a way to build a relationship and expand your network, not as a way to get a job.
4. Wait for the right time. So often we get a number and feel as if we should call immediately. But if you’re not ready, you may bungle a meeting. Why wouldn’t you be ready? When you’re overextended and it’s hard to find time on your calendar or if you haven’t done enough research about the industry or the company where the person works.
5. Don’t overstay your welcome. It’s always better to signal the meeting is ending and let the other person say he or she is open to continuing the discussion.

Possible Questions

1. Can you tell me how you got to this position?
2. What do you like most about what you do, and what would you change if you could?
3. How do people break into this field?
4. What are the types of jobs that exist where you work and in the industry in general?
5. Where would you suggest a person investigate if the person were particularly skilled at (fill in the blank — quantitative thinking, communications, writing, advocacy)?
6. What does a typical career path look like in your industry?
7. What are some of the biggest challenges facing your company and your industry today?
8. Are there any professional or trade associations I should connect with?
9. What do you read — in print and online — to keep up with developments in your field?
10. How do you see your industry changing in the next 10 years?
11. If you were just getting involved now, where would you put yourself?
12. What’s a typical day like for you?
13. What’s unique or differentiating about your company?
14. How has writing a book (starting a blog, running a company, etc.) differed from your expectations? What have been the greatest moments and biggest challenges?

Alboher, Marci. 2017. “Mastering the Informational Interview.” The New York Times. July 6, 2017.

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