Informational Interviewing

Welcome to informational interviewing. In this presentation we will walk through what an informational interview is, why do it and how to do it. An informational interview is a way for you to get insider knowledge about a career, an industry or a company that you’re interested in.  As you can see informational interviews and job interviews have a lot in common.  In an informational interview though the tables are turned.  You are the person asking questions for your own knowledge and there’s no expectation of walking away with a job or internship. As an act of courtesy though it’s still important to do your research, dress professionally, and thank the person you’re interviewing for their time much like you would at a job interview.  So why do an informational interview? As mentioned before you can get an inside perspective that you may or may not get at a job interview. You can get the answers to questions like what’s it like to work in this career or industry? What does this person like or not like about where they’re at?  And you can use the information that they’re giving you to make your own choices about where you want to take your career.  For example, if you’re debating between a career in nonprofit versus a corporate setting, an informational interview can be one way to clarify which one fits you better.  These interviews can also give you confidence in interviewing because you’re not the one in the hot seat. You don’t have to necessarily share your skills or knowledge or what you’ve done but you’re still in that setting getting practice and you realize that this is something you can do. Informational interviews are also a great way to build your professional network for later on when you are looking for a job. When you’re thinking about who to interview, look at the choices on this slide.  Think about whether you have a family member, a friend or a neighbor that has a job that you’re interested in and can tell you about it.

I suggest starting with those who are closest to you first if they have a career that you’re interested in just because you already have a relationship with them and it might be easier to ask questions. But if not ask them if they know someone who is in a career that you’re interested in because chances are someone will. Ask your professors, your roommates, and people you have worked with in the past.  Another great tool to use is LinkedIn. You can find alums who were in your shoes not too long ago and ask them about how they went about their choices. 

So this social networking site is focused specifically on professional connections.  This is also your first online impression to the employer and it’s a tool that can help you connect with others and help build your network online.  Employers usually look up candidates on LinkedIn anyway and having a profile is a standard step these days when you’re working towards a career.  There are many ways to use this website but it’s one tool that you can use to find people to interview and find information on companies and industries.

The UNC Alumni section on LinkedIn is a popular tool that students like to use.  This section compiles all LinkedIn users who have listed UNC on their profile. You can find out where UNC alums live, where they work and what they do. 

You can even find them based on a major that’s similar to yours and then choose a few to reach out to for an interview.

Before you start reaching out, it’s important to complete your own profile in just 3 easy steps. 1st create a descriptive headline related to who you are or your professional goals. Profiles with pictures are viewed much more than those that don’t have one so be sure to take a professional-looking photo.  Write a short summary of who you are and what your goals are, and then just like you would on a resume, include your experiences, education, and activities. You can also use the LinkedIn URL to put on your resume and other social media materials.

Once you have your profile set up you can begin connecting with others.  Find friends and family, previous employers and classmates. As you grow your network you’ll see that you’ll continue to receive suggestions to connect with other people which can open up avenues for you to do more informational interviewing. You can also upload your contacts from email just to make the process faster.

The last piece of the puzzle is to join groups. You can join groups like the UNC Alumni group, a young professional network in your area or join an organization in your intended career.  You’ll see that many people who join these groups have similar interests to you and again it’s another great way to continue to open up options for you to meet people to do an informational interview with.

Okay so you are ready to request your first informational interview. Here is an example of what we consider a good request.  This person shares a little bit about themselves, introduces themselves politely, they share where they found this person’s contact information and what their goal is in connecting with them.  It’s specific, it’s short, and it asks the person whether they have 20-30 minutes of time to have a conversation over the phone. So this is what we consider a good example of how to approach an interview request.

On the flip side, here’s an example of how not to request an interview.  Although this person says a little bit about who they are and how they found this person’s information, it’s clear that what they’re really looking for is someone to help them prepare for an interview at this person’s company.  They ask them questions before they know whether this person is interested in meeting with them and demand that they meet with them within a short timeframe.  So be sure when you’re writing this email to give the person that you’re interviewing enough time to respond and exercise etiquette by asking for a time convenient for them. They can be busy and it might take them a few times to respond.

Once you get to the informational interview, here are some typical questions to ask. In addition to these questions, I suggest asking what they like the most and what they don’t like about the field because this is your chance to really get at the root of that question.

So now that you know what informational interviewing is you’re ready to reach out to someone.  Feel free to explore our website for other informational interviewing suggestions or to meet with a career counselor just for more personalized help in this process.