As part of your career exploration process, consider setting up some informational
interviews. This is a great way to gain valuable advice and career information
about specific fields or career pathways, make contact with professionals in
the field, and practice your interviewing skills.
Center for Career Services "Gold
The Informational Interview
WHAT: A conversation with a professional in a career field you are considering;
a technique for gathering occupational information.
WHY: To increase your knowledge about a career field and
develop valuable contacts. To develop self-confidence about your own abilities
and your "fit" with
a particular field.
WHEN: Any time you are trying to make a career decision.
WHO: Contact people in the career field you are investigating;
e.g., family members, friends, professional organizations, career fairs, classmates,
employers, alumni, speakers you have heard, acquaintances, etc. There are industry
and employer directories at UW's Center for Career Services, and at Odegaard
and Suzzallo libraries. How to Find Career Professionals in
Your Field of Interest.
WHERE: At a mutually convenient place, preferably where you will be able to
observe a typical work setting for that profession.
a few academic majors or career fields that seem to match your interests
and abilities; locate people who are studying, teaching, or working in these
fields (click here for suggestions on finding them). Get
names, addresses and phone numbers through contacts, referrals, newspaper/magazine
directories, or call an organization and ask for the person in
charge of the activity in which you're interested. You may want to precede your call with a letter. It is important that you
not ask them to call you: you must take the initiative (see example below).
Sample Letter Requesting an Informational Interview
Dear Ms Howard:
I have been doing research at the University of Washington Career Center regarding
the publishing industry. Having discovered your company and your name through
Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, I thought
that you would be an excellent person to assist with career information.
As an English major, I am exploring potential career paths. The publishing
field sounds interesting to me at this point, but I want to get a clearer sense
of direction. I would like to get your advice on the long-term career implications
of this field and other possible options as well as a better handle on the
day-to-day activities of what people do in the newspaper publishing field.
I will call you next week to see if you'd be available for a brief meeting
at your convenience. Thank you very much for considering my request.
Robin C Student
Be Prepared for the Interview
Do some preliminary research. Read about the academic field or occupation.
Read about the employer.
Prepare a list of questions (see Suggested Questions below). If you prepare
insightful questions before you meet, the meeting will be more useful and
you will leave
a good impression.
Ask the person to suggest names of others whom you might interview. It is
important to talk with several different sources in order to obtain different
Keep accurate records - they will be useful later! Write down names, titles,
addresses, and telephone numbers. Make notes on topics you discussed, including
any suggestions for further exploration. Write down any hard questions you
were asked, and insights you gained.
Thank the person for their time and ask permission to keep in touch.
NEVER ask for a job during an informational interview!
ALWAYS follow up with a thank you note!
Suggested Questions to Ask During an Informational Interview
In general, what is your work like as a _____________?
How did you get into this field?
Describe a typical day or week on the job. What do you like most about this
you find most challenging about this job.
What skills and abilities are most important in your work?
How did you prepare yourself for this kind of work? What is your educational
What advice would you give to someone still in college, aspiring to a career
in your field (e.g., academic major, courses, related work, internships)?
Are there typical credentials required for entry into this field? What is
the minimum amount of education usually required in order to be competitive
for entry-level openings? ...for advancement?
Is any on-the-job training provided? What are the opportunities for continued
learning and growth?
What personal qualities are needed to succeed in this line of work?
How would you advise someone to begin seeking a job in this field?
My strengths include the following: __________ , _________, and ___________.
How might they match with positions in this field? I have a resume if you would
like to see it.
How does your job fit into the overall operation of this organization? If
you could go back in time and redo your preparation for the position you now
hold, what changes would you make?
What kinds of skills would you seek in an assistant? What kinds of assignments
would you give to a new assistant?
Can you suggest other people I might talk with regarding this field? May
I mention that you were the person who referred me?