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Informational Interviewing Guide

What is an informational Interview?

The best way to learn about a career is to talk to someone who’s actually doing what you’re interested in!

Informational interviews are conversations where students, job seekers, or career changers get an insider perspective on a specific industry, job, or company by speaking to a working professional at the role or company they are interested in. This is not a job interview. It is simply a conversation that allows you to build new relationships and get information to help you make good decisions about potential career paths.

Purpose of Informational Interviews

  • To learn about the company culture to identify what you value in a workplace. This can help you make more informed decisions when submitting job applications.
  • To practice communication skills by having conversations with strangers. Communicating well is a necessary skill to develop, especially for your future work.
  • To network with people in a field you may want pursue one day. By building authentic relationships early in your college years, you are making connections that are not only valuable to you today, but have potential to endure through the rest of your life.
  • To get advice on what types of experiences employers in this industry are looking to see on your resume and what they want to hear in an interview.

7 Steps to Informational Interviewing

1. Decide what you want to explore

  • Make a list of companies, jobs, or industries you are interested in. Research these beforehand. Try to be specific if possible (forensic psychology, tax accounting, data analytics for advertisement)
  • Explore careers with: learnhowtobecome.org
  • Research companies with: glassdoor.com
  • Use industry associations to identify industry trends


2. Identify people to reach out to

  • Tap into your personal network:
    • Friends
    • Family
    • Church community
    • Coworkers
    • Neighbors
    • Professors
    • Fellow students
  • Pursue Biola connections using the Alumni page on LinkedIn to find people who already works in a position you want to learn more about.
  • Use LinkedIn to search for companies or job titles you have interest in. Find profiles of those who hold those positions.


3. Make the initial contact

This can seem like the most intimidating part of the whole process, but it really shouldn’t be! Check out the examples below.

Reaching out to a Biola alumni:

Hi Kelly,

I saw your name on the Biola Alumni page and am really interested in what your journey to Haworth Marketing has looked like. I’m a senior marketing major at Biola and I desire to learn more about what kinds of opportunities are out there. Your career journey looks similar to what I may be interested in and I would love to hear more about it.

Would you be willing to share your experiences over the phone with me?

Thanks!

Katie

Reaching out to a stranger:

Dear Ms. Velasquez,

I noticed your LinkedIn profile and your impressive background in Digital Marketing. I am currently studying Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing at Biola University.

I would love to learn about your work experiences and any advice on entering into the marketing industry. Would you be open to having a short phone conversation or coffee meeting?

Thanks!

Katie

Reminders…

  • Introduce yourself as a college student pursuing a _____ degree who has a specific interest in _____ and would like to hear about their experiences in that field/industry.
  • Don’t use the word “interview” in your message or subject line. Remember, this is a normal conversation.
  • Show some of your personality and excitement in this message! They will be much more inclined to talk to a student who sounds interesting, not bland.
  • If using LinkedIn, always send a personalized connection request
If you get a YES…
  • Schedule a time that works best to connect.
  • Discuss how you will talk… in-person, phone call, Skype?
If you get a NO…
  • Who are we kidding? You won’t.
    • But if it actually happens, thank them and wish them the best in their career! Consider asking if there is someone else they would recommend you speak with.
If you don’t hear back…
  • Don’t be afraid to follow up. Often times the professional you are reaching out to may be busy. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to speak with you.


4. Prepare for the conversation

  • Create a brief introduction on who you are and your hopes for the conversation.
  • Research the company
  • Research the individual
  • Have a list of questions prepared beforehand.
    • DON’T ask questions you can Google. Show that you value their time by asking thoughtful questions that allow them to share their opinions and experiences!


5. Showtime

  • Respect their time! Call when you said you would and arrive early if meeting in person.
  • Begin with asking how their day is going and giving your brief intro. This will help get the ball rolling.
  • Use the questions you prepared beforehand. However, just because you have these doesn’t mean you have to ask all of them. These are simply guidelines — let the conversation flow naturally.
  • Be excited about their answers and show clear interest in them and their career!
  • You direct the conversation. Don’t expect the professional to.


6. Follow-up

  • Write a thank you email (or handwritten note to go the extra mile) within 1-2 days, showing them how grateful you are for their time and information.
  • Stay in touch! LinkedIn is a great tool for this.


7. Reflect

  • Write out what you learned, new questions you have and next steps to take.
  • Ask yourself:
    • Does the person I just talked to use the skills I want to use on a daily basis?
    • Would I enjoy working for that type of company/organization?
    • What aspects of their work sounded energizing for me? What sounded draining?

Tips for Success

  • Always show your gratitude by writing a thank you email or handwritten note
  • Follow up and give updates when possible
  • Use a professional email address (your Biola email works great!)
  • Stay Organized!
    • Take notes and keep track of who you speak with. Using Google Drive may be helpful for this.

Informational Interview Questions

Personal Experiences

  • How did you know you wanted to get into this line of work?
  • What previous professional experiences helped you most in your role?
  • Could you tell me about your career path and those common in this field?
  • What is something that would surprise people about your day to day work?
  • What career mistakes have given you your biggest lessons?
  • How would you describe a typical day/week?
  • What are current projects you are working on?
  • What are the major responsibilities of your position?
  • What is most exciting about your work? Most challenging?
  • I’d like to walk through and see your work environment and the organization. Would that be possible and, if so, how could we arrange it?


Industry/Career Field

  • What kinds of skills and education are required in your position?
  • What’s one thing you wish someone would have told you before going into this industry?
  • What are some of the most rewarding things about this industry?
  • What trends and developments do you see in the future?
  • What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in the industry over the past 5 years?
  • What recommendations can you give to someone looking to enter this field?
  • What traits, characteristics and skills do successful people in this field possess?
  • What’s most important to prepare for a role like yours?
  • What is the corporate culture of your company? Is it informal or formal? Do people work autonomously or in teams?
  • What are the positive and challenging aspects of working in this career field?
  • What are the most helpful or prestigious professional associations? Are students invited to attend? Are student memberships available?


Advice on Next Steps

  • What steps would be involved in exploring how someone like me might become part of this organization?
  • What advice would you have for me as a senior who is interested in this industry?
  • Would you suggest anyone else in the industry that I should contact for additional information?