What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is a meeting, either virtually or in-person, to learn more about a particular industry, company, or job that interests you. It might feel a little awkward at first to reach out to someone but, rest assured, most people enjoy talking about their professional journey and choices.
But why would I schedule one?
Informational interviewing is about collecting information about a job, a career field, an industry, or a company. It is not a job interview. Instead, it’s an opportunity to talk with people working in a field you’d like to know more about. Through the conversation, you can explore the realities of what the job is like, what they do, what responsibilities they have, and what it’s like to work at their company. In turn, you can reflect if the role, industry or company is a good fit for you and one you want to pursue. These conversations typically last 15-30 minutes.
Informational interviews can offer insider perspectives and help you become well-informed with the most current information about the industry or company you’re considering joining. Not to mention, they are a great way to expand your network and develop some contacts in your field.
I’m intrigued, now what?
1) Research industry/company and identify people to talk with
Start by doing some preliminary research on the industry and companies you are interested in. This ensures you have those easily “Googleable” questions under your belt and you come across as prepared. The Greene Center has many resources to support you with this. From here, identify people to talk to. Start with people you already know. Share your interest with family, friends, and faculty in order to leverage their contacts. Next, take advantage of the University of Rochester’s alumni through the Meliora Collective and LinkedIn Alumni Group.
2) Clarify your purpose and goals
Begin with an understanding of what you hope to gain from the conversation. Are you interested in their professional journey? Are you curious about specific skills and competencies needed in the industry? Or, are you seeking detailed information about the company they work for? Having clarity around your goals for the conversation will help maximize your time together and move you towards a successful meeting.
3) Practice your story and reach out
Develop a short introduction of yourself that includes a brief discussion of your interests, shared connection and goals for the meeting. Check out the Greene Center’s sample notes. Your outreach should be professional, concise, and include a direct ask (a time to connect).
4) The informational interview!
Congrats – you are ready! Just like a job interview, treat this as a professional conversation. Dress and present yourself neatly and come prepared with questions. Questions can range from skills and degrees needs for the job, company culture, and career progression to industry
specific inquires and beyond. But remember, you aren’t asking for a job offer. Be ready to direct the course of the conversation but also let it flow naturally. Be conscientious of the agreed upon timeframe. And, consider asking for additional professional introductions to their contacts if you remain interested or are looking for other perspectives.
5) Don’t forget the thank you note
Send a thank you within 24-48 hours that shares your gratitude for their time, acknowledges suggestions, and reiterates your interest. You can take full advantage of this connection by bringing this person into your network. Consider following up with them periodically, particularly if you achieved an outcome, have an update or met with a mutual contact. This ongoing communication may lead to potential opportunities and further assistance.