Informational interviewing is an effective tool in your career planning. Quite simply, it involves talking to people who have jobs or work in industries that are of interest to you.
It gives you valuable information about career paths while you practice and polish your interviewing and interpersonal skills.
Informational interviewing can help you:
- Investigate specific career paths and narrow your options
- Develop a greater understanding of a particular industry, field or organization
- Explore job possibilities and create a strategy for entering your field of interest
- Build a network of professionals who know you and will help you
- Become more confident in yourself and your abilities
Preparing for the Interview:
- Have a clear idea of what industries or fields you want to explore. If you are just beginning your career planning, review the Majors and Careers resources to understand the types of jobs related to the various SBU majors.
- Learn as much as you can about the industry, the company, and the individual you will be meeting with before the interview. The Career and Professional Readiness Center's Researching Employers resources may prove helpful. An informational interview is not an opportunity to “pick someone’s brain," but a chance to ask informed questions. Prepare your questions ahead of time.
- Develop a list of possible contacts. Start with friends, relatives, neighbors, SBU faculty, etc., and broaden this list to include SBU alumni, members of professional associations, and others doing the type of work you want to do. To develop confidence, start with your closest contacts, then move to people you do not know. Keep track of your correspondence.
Arranging the Interview
It is acceptable to approach contacts either via e-mail or phone. Adhere to these guidelines:
- Introduce yourself
- If you were referred, mention the referring person’s name
- Tell the person you are conducting career research and seeking advice only. This is not the time to ask for a job!
- Give a brief (30 seconds) sketch of your educational background and interests. Practice this sketch in advance.
- Request 20–30 minutes (no more) for the interview.
- Arrange a mutually convenient time and accommodate the person’s schedule.
- Try to arrange a face-to-face meeting. If not possible, be prepared to arrange a telephone interview instead.
Conducting the Interview
- Be prompt for both phone and in-person interviews
- Introduce yourself with confidence and restate your purpose for conducting this interview
- Keep to the agreed upon time limit.
- Always be courteous, professional and respectful of your contact’s time.
- Ask for suggestions of additional contacts at the end of the interview, after you have developed a relationship with the contact.
After the Interview
- Make notes about the interview: topics discussed, referrals offered, recommended next steps, etc.
- Send a note or e-mail thanking your contact for his or her time and the advice shared. This necessary courtesy lays a solid foundation for future contact.
- Evaluate your style of interviewing. What could you have done better? Use what you have learned to improve your interviewing approach next time.
- Evaluate the information you received. How does it relate to your career plans?