Deciding What Job Is Right For You? Informational Interviews Can Help…

By | May 16, 2017

Most professionals are aware of the value of research and networking in the job search process. Savvy job seekers connect with the right people at ISPE meetings, on LinkedIn or other social media.  They study corporate websites to learn more about the companies they’re most interested in and stay up-to-date on industry news and trends. But as it turns out, one of the most valuable tools – one that offers job seekers both networking opportunities and occupational information – is the informational interview.

An informational interview is a one-on-one conversation with someone who has a job you might like, who works within an industry you might want to enter or who is employed by a specific company that you’re interested in learning about. It’s a way to learn more about what a day is like in the field and it’s a good way to network into an organization. Ideally, you want to have the interview in person because a face-to-face meeting will give the interviewer the best chance for getting to know you. Here is an outline of the process:

Objective of informational interviewing:

  • To gather information about an occupation or industry to help choose a direction.
  • The objective is not to land a job, just gather information to help make decisions.
  • Informational interviews can lead to future job opportunities by developing relationships with professionals and hiring managers

Reasons to conduct informational interviews:

  • Explore careers and clarify your goals.
  • Identify your professional strengths and weaknesses.
  • Build confidence for job interviews.
  • Access the most up-to-date career information.
  • Discover employment opportunities that are not advertised.
  • Expand your professional network.

Steps to follow for informational interviews:

  1. Identify the occupation or industry you wish to learn about.
    • Assess your interests and skills and evaluate current economy/labor conditions to identify the best fields to research.
  2. Prepare for the interview:
    • Read all you can about the field.
    • Decide what information you want to obtain.
    • Prepare a list of questions.
  3. Identify people to interview
    • Start with people you know: relatives, relatives’ employers, friends and their relatives, co-workers, neighbors, former classmates, teachers, civic & volunteer groups.
    • Professional organizations (ISPE, AIChE, ASME, PDA)
    • Networking, Social Media ( LinkedIn, Facebook)
  4. Arrange the interview
    • Use the phone, not email, to contact the person you have identified.
      • This is your first opportunity to make a good impression!
      • Don’t leave a voice message. Instead, try calling again.
    • Email has its uses:
      • As a backup if calling is not successful.
      • As a follow up to confirm the phone call just completed and to thank your contact in advance for his/her interest.
      • To send a resume or summary of your interests and experience.
    • If the direct approach doesn’t work, trying using someone who knows the person to act as a middleman.
  5. Conduct the interview
    • Dress appropriately, be professional and arrive on time.
    • Refer to your list of questions and take notes.
    • Stay on track but allow for spontaneous discussion; manage the time allotted for the interview and make sure to end on time.
    • At the end of the interview, ask for names/contact information of others who might be helpful and ask permission to use the interviewees name when contacting them
    • Ask for a business card.
    • Do not pressure the interviewee for a job!
  6. Follow Up
    • Immediately following the interview, record key points and impressions, and jot down additional questions.
    • Send a thank you note via email or snail mail within 2-3 days and include some of your impressions and questions to “build a stronger relationship.”

Sample Questions:

  • What do you do on a typical day?
  • What training/education is required for your job?
  • What personal qualities are important for success?
  • What part of the job is most satisfying? Most challenging?
  • How did you get this job?
  • What are the advancement opportunities?
  • What is the salary range for various levels?
  • Is there a demand for people in this occupation?
  • What special advice would you give someone entering the field?
  • What are the prerequisites for jobs in this field?
  • Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more?
  • What do you think of my experience in order to enter this field? What do you think of my resume?
  • What are the problems and future issues that you see?
  • If you could start over again, would you choose the same path? Why? What would you change?
  • What other fields or jobs do you suggest I research?

Informational interviews can be a powerful career development tool. With the right preparation and the right questions, these encounters can help you define your career path and may even lead to that next job opportunity. Good luck!