Prepare for Informational Interviews
Determine Your Purpose
Before contacting a potential interviewee, prepare for the interview by clarifying your purpose. Your purpose may be to explore two occupations of interest to help you decide on a major or degree, or your purpose may be to learn more about an employee's experiences at a company that interests you.
If you are unclear on your purpose or career goals, visit the Explore Your Options section of the Career Planning & Development Center's website or consider scheduling an appointment with your career advisor.
Present Your Professional Background
With your purpose in mind, write a brief summary of your values, interests, personality, skills, and strengths so that you are focused and can discuss these with ease when you contact interviewees. Practice your personal introduction as you'll be introducing yourself on the phone or via email. If needed, update your resume in case you are asked to provide it to a potential interviewee.
Ready Your Attire
Informational interviews can often serve as your first impression to a new contact. Before scheduling informational interviews, make sure that you have attire that is appropriate. Learn more about options for appropriate dress in the Career Planning & Development Center's Guidelines for Professional Attire.
Arrange Your Interviewing Space
You might meet your interviewee at their office, at a mutually agreed upon location such as a coffee shop, or via video conference. Ensure that you know how to navigate to the meeting location and that you schedule enough time for encountering traffic and for parking or public transportation mishaps.
While your connection is best established in person, distance from your desired interviewee may not allow for a face-to-face meeting. If meeting virtually, check that your technology works seamlessly and that you have arranged for a clean and quiet space to conduct the interview.
Identify Potential Interviewees
When you have determined the industry, occupation, or employer you want to explore, the next step is to find contacts to interview. The following sources can help you to identify potential interviewees:
Request an Informational Interview
Upon identifying potential interviewees, request an informational interview by calling, emailing, or sending a LinkedIn message. The key components of your message, whether verbal or written, should include:
- Who you are
- What you're seeking to understand about your major, career, or the industry/company
- How you identified the potential interviewee
- The elements of the potential interviewee's background that made you want to contact them
- A request to schedule a meeting
Scheduling by Phone
When calling, ask the individual if this would be a convenient time to speak briefly. Be prepared to conduct the interview immediately if the opportunity arises. If you cannot arrange a face-to-face interview, you can instead request a video interview. Throughout the phone contact, be courteous and thank the individual for their time.
You should also be prepared to leave a voicemail relaying your request. When leaving a voicemail, be sure to clearly and slowly state your name and phone number for return communication. Be patient in waiting for a response. If you haven't received a response within a week or two, consider sending one polite follow-up message reiterating your interest.
Sample Phone Call: Hello, Mr. Smith. My name is Drew Washington. I'm a junior studying accounting at Webster University, and I was given your name by one of my professors, Dr. Marshall. Is this a good time for you to talk? Dr. Marshall encouraged me to reach out to you because I'm looking to learn more about working in the accounting industry, especially at a public accounting firm. Because of your experience, I'd like to know if we can schedule a time to meet to discuss this further.
Scheduling via Email or LinkedIn
When emailing or sending a LinkedIn message, use a professional email address such as your university email address or a general account (e.g., Gmail) with your name or initials. Because you have the ability to proofread a written message, your communication should be free of grammatical and spelling errors.
Write a subject line that clearly explains your intent. The following are examples of straightforward subject lines:
- Webster Student Interested in Informational Meeting
- Seeking Information from Webster Alumni on Counseling Field
- Information Request from MBA Student at Webster University
As with voicemails, employ patience in waiting for a response. If a week or two has passed without response, it would be appropriate to send one follow-up message reiterating your interest.
Dear Ms. Cochran,
My name is Alex Li, and I'm a graduate student at Webster University earning a Master of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in Information Technology Management. I found your name in Webster University's Handshake system as I was exploring companies in the computer science and information technology fields. I'm writing today because I'm trying to learn as much as I can about the profession before I launch an internship search.
Prior to pursuing my MBA, I spent several years as an elementary education teacher, which required me to be highly structured and very detail-oriented. I'd like to speak with you to gather information on the IT field and to seek your insight into how I might make a successful transition. Can we arrange a time to meet in person or via video conference for an information meeting?
Thank you for your time and consideration. You may reach me via email or by phone at 314-555-5555.
Sample LinkedIn Connection Request
Dear Mr. Jones,
I identified your LinkedIn profile through a common group, the Webster University Alumni Association. I would like to connect on LinkedIn as I see that you're an Advertising Account Manager at ABC Company. I'm interested in speaking with you to learn more about your own career path, ABC Company, and to gather your advice and insight.
Conduct an Effective Interview
Whether you conduct an informational interview by video or in person, prepare a list of questions you hope to discuss. Plan to research the interviewee's company so that you can ask informed and customized questions. Bring your list of questions, along with a copy of your resume, in a folder or portfolio.
The following is a list of potential questions you may ask:
- How did you get started in this field?
- What previous jobs led you to your current position?
- What are the most significant pluses/minuses about working in this field?
- What do you like/dislike about this job/company/industry?
- Please describe the various careers and career paths in this field.
- What is the future outlook for this career field?
- What specific skills, interests, or values are important for a person to have in this job?
- Where might I be after 5 years with an organization like yours?
- If I left this career field after 5 years, what other occupations might be options for me?
- What kind of training is necessary for this career field? Are there any specific college majors that relate well to this position?
- What salaries are earned in this career field?
- What is the top job you can aspire to in this career?
- Are there any courses or activities a student should get involved in that would be particularly beneficial in this field?
- What advice would you give someone entering this field?
- What is the best way to obtain an entry-level position in this career field?
- Do you have information on job qualifications and/or a job description that I might have?
- What type of unique interview questions might someone entering this field expect to be asked?
- What specific aspects of my experience might be important and worth discussing in an interview setting?
- Are there other people you would recommend I speak to so that I might learn more about this career field?
Keep a record of all informational interviews you conduct. For each, note opportunities to pursue. Contact any referrals you received during the course of your informational interview and arrange additional informational interviews with those referrals by repeating the process outlined in this guide.
Send a thank you note (written or email) to individuals with whom you meet for informational interviews. Express your appreciation to the interviewee for their time and comment on key insights or lessons that you learned. Stay in touch with the interviewee by sending periodic career-related updates on topics like choosing a major or degree program, applying to a position at the interviewee's organization, or obtaining a job or internship.
Sample Thank You Letter
Dear Ms. Cornell:
Thank you for taking the time to connect with me yesterday and for sharing such a wealth of information about your educational background and career in public relations. I especially enjoyed learning about how your organization has developed its social media strategy and look forward to keeping those tactics in mind as I reflect on how my course projects connect with real-world implementation.
As I move forward in my coursework, I'd like to stay in touch periodically via email. I learned a good deal through our discussion today and would like to continue the conversations.