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One way to learn more about an occupation and make an important contact is an informational interview. Find someone in an occupation of interest to you and ask them if you could have fifteen to twenty minutes of their time to learn more about their field. The information you gather can help you in a job interview, but most importantly, you have made a valuable contact in the field.
Know What You Want To Accomplish
The primary objectives of informational interviewing are to:
- Investigate a specific career field.
- Uncover career options you never knew existed.
- Assist in narrowing (or expanding) options.
- Obtain advice on where your skills might be applied.
- Learn about important issues in a career field.
- Broaden your own network of contacts for future reference.
Be Prepared For the Interview
Before meeting someone for an informational interview, you should:
- Learn as much as you can about the organization.
- Have your questions written down.
- Learn about the career field in general.
- Be yourself, and relax. You are the interviewer, and this is not a job interview. Keep your purpose in mind.
Use the Information You Obtain
It is important to keep in mind you are investigating a career and trying to establish a network at the same time. Therefore, all the protocol of a professional job search, as well as the curiosity of a diligent job seeker, should be followed.
- Ask for the names of others you can contact for further information.
- Keep the door open for further contact by asking if you could call again if you have any questions.
- Take notes during the interview if this will help you later in your evaluation of the career.
- Send a typed thank you letter within two days of the interview.
Sample Questions for an Informational Interview
- What are the most interesting aspects of your job?
- What do you do in a typical day?
- How did you enter this job/career?
- What part of your work do you consider dull or repetitious?
- How would you recommend someone break into this field?
- What educational background is required?
- What kind of experience would help in this career?
- Are there specific courses a student might take that would be particularly beneficial in this field?
- What are the disadvantages and advantages to this career?
- Is a great deal of travel connected with this job?
- What types of training do companies give to people entering this field?
- What technologies are integrated into this career?
- What recommendations would you have for an entry level person considering this career?
- What special advice would you give to a young person entering this field?
- How do you see the jobs in the field changing over the next ten years? What can I do to prepare myself for such changes?
- As a female or male, would I have any special challenges in a career in this field?
- How can I learn more about this career/job?
- What professional organizations are active and responsive in this career field?
- Who else would you recommend I contact for more information about this career?
- Do you have any career literature that contains job descriptions and job specifications for some of the positions in this field?