Informational interviews are one of the best ways to explore career paths and expand your network. Unlike a job interview, the goal of an informational interview is primarily to gather information about a career path or organization, not get a job. Additionally, you are the one asking questions.
Four steps to the perfect informational interview
1. Identify your interview subject:
- Start with people with whom you're most comfortable (e.g., friends and family), even if they don’t work in an area that seems appealing to you initially; you may be surprised by what you learn.
- They may also be able to connect you with someone who is familiar with your desired career field.
2. Ask for 20 minutes:
- Most people have 20 minutes of spare time in their day for a conversation.
- Ask “I’m looking for some advice and information – could you spare 20 minutes for me next week to talk about your career path?”
3. Prepare questions:
- Take the time to think about what you’d really like to know about the individual’s career path.
- You might ask about the person’s work background, education and training requirements, what a typical day is like, and whether they have any advice about entering this field.
- Be sure to ask if they can recommend anyone else you might speak with regarding your career interests to keep your momentum going.
- Here is a list of great sample questions for your interview subject:
- Tell me about your career path. How did you get started doing this?
- What education and training did you need to do this?
- What are critical skills that you need to have for this field?
- What is an average day like? What are your major responsibilities?
- What are some upcoming trends/challenges to the field that I should know about?
- What advice would you give someone thinking about entering this field?
- Do you know of anyone else that I could contact?
4. Stay in contact:
- Send a handwritten thank you note to each person with whom you speak
- Follow up on occasion and updated them on your career search.