The best way to gather information about an occupation or an industry is to talk to people working in the field. This process is called informational or research interviewing. An informational interview is an interview that you initiate – you ask the questions. The purpose is to obtain information, not to get a job, though some have obtained jobs as a result of informational interviewing.
Why you should conduct informational interviews:
- to explore careers and clarify your career goal
- to discover employment opportunities that are not advertised
- to expand your professional network
- to build confidence for your job interviews
- to access the most up-to-date career information
- to identify your professional strengths and weaknesses
Steps to follow to conduct an informational interview:
- Identify the occupation or industry
Assess your own interests, abilities, values, and skills. Evaluate labor conditions and trends to identify the best fields to research.
- Prepare for the interview
Read all you can about the field prior to the interview. Decide what information you would like to obtain about the occupation/industry. Prepare a list of questions that you would like to have answered. (see additional preparation tips below)
- Identify people to interview
Start with lists of people you already know – friends, relatives, fellow students, present or former co-workers, supervisors, neighbors, etc… Professional organizations, the yellow pages, organizational directories, and public speakers are also good resources. You may also call an organization and ask for the name of the person by job title.
- Arrange the interview
Contact the person to set up an interview: by telephone, by a letter followed by a telephone call, or by having someone who knows the person make the appointment for you.
- Conduct the Interview
Dress appropriately, arrive on time, and be polite and professional. Refer to your list of prepared questions; stay on track but allow for spontaneous discussion. Before leaving, ask your contact to suggest names of others who might be helpful to you and ask permission to use your contact’s name when contacting these new contacts.
- Follow Up
Immediately following the interview, record the information gathered. Always send a thank-you note to your contact within one week of the interview.