October 24, 2019 Practice Points

A Guide on Informational Interviews

Informational interviews differ from job interviews, but they can lead to numerous outcomes such as job opportunities, career guidance, mentors, and more.

By Leonard Wills

Many students overlook the significance of informational interviews. For example, you can learn the good and bad about working in a particular career or company and discover careers and opportunities you did not know existed.

Though large networking events have benefits—I’ve had my fair share—depending on the setting you may not have much time with individuals and receive the advice you hoped to gain. Also, at these events, the person or persons you’re interested in meeting could be pulled in numerous directions.

During an informational interview, however, you’ll have time to interact with your interviewee without much interruption—unlike at a large networking event.

Below I provide some guidance on informational interviews.

Craft a Professional Email

Spend time crafting a professional email to the individuals that interest you. Below I provide a template from themuse.com.

Dear [first name],

My name is [your name], and I’m a [job title] who works in [your location]. I’m reaching out because [reason why you want to speak with this person]. I’d love to learn more about [two or three things you’d like to learn from the person].

I’m sure you’re busy, so even 20 minutes would be appreciated.

Thanks so much,

[Your name]

I have also provided another link with templates. Of course, everyone may not respond to your email, but stay the course and be persistent! 

Come with Questions

Have some preset questions to open the conversation. Once again, here are some sample questions.

  1. What do you wish someone would have told you before you started this profession?
  2. What are your main responsibilities as a...?
  3. What do you like most about your work?
  4. What do you enjoy least about your work?
  5. What kinds of issues do you deal with?

Be Prepared to Answer Questions

An effective informational interview involves dialogue. With that said, some questions you should be prepared to answer. Remember, during the informational interview you’re also being interviewed.

  1. Why did you find the interviewee’s career interesting?
  2. Why interview this person rather than someone else in the field? Do they seem more knowledgeable, or took a similar path you hope to follow?
  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  4. Why are you interested in this field?

Informational interviews differ from a job interview, but these interviews can lead to numerous outcomes such as job opportunities, career guidance, mentors, and more. 

Leonard Wills is a presidential management fellow in Washington D.C. 

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