Informational Interviews

Read our Informational Interview Handout

An informational interview is a meeting or phone call initiated by you. It involves contacting people in fields of interest to you and gathering information about those fields that could help you make valuable decisions. You will be conducting the interview, however, it should be a low pressure situation for you allowing you to make a good impression.

How can informational interviews help you?

  • You will certainly gain confidence in your interviewing skills, and become more comfortable in the interviewing process.
  • You can discover what skills are required for certain jobs and match them with your own abilities and strengths.
  • You can gather information on a specific organization (i.e. Xerox, United Way) or investigate a specific job (i.e., Editorial Assistant at Warner Brothers).
  • Most importantly: the people with whom you speak will remain contacts and lead you to other contacts and sources of job opportunities.

How do you arrange an informational interview?

  1. Contact the Center for Career Development
  2. A counselor will give you several names of alumni or friends of Gettysburg College of whom you can do an informational interview. You can call, write a letter, drop by and schedule an appointment, or have a referral (either have someone who knows the contact make the appointment for you or mention that "_________ suggested that I contact you to see whether you would speak to me.")
  3. Contact organizations that employ people with career interests similar to yours. If you are unaware of agencies, organizations or companies that employ people who are doing jobs that interest you, resources like the Job Bank books and Area Chambers of Commerce will help you identify specific places to contact.

Tips for Informational Interviews

  • Emphasize that you are not looking for a job.
  • Keep the interview to 20-30 minutes. But don't be surprised if the interview lasts an hour, people like to be helpful and enjoy talking about themselves.
  • It is a good idea to develop a basic understanding of the occupational field and companies prior to conducting Informational Interviews.
  • Prepare questions prior to informational interviewing.
  • If you are meeting in person, dress as if you were interviewing for a job. Women should wear dresses or suits, men should wear a suit and tie.
  • Bring a resume. It will give your contact an idea of how you are presenting yourself, and something to remind them of you in the future.
  • Compile a notebook with the questions asked and responses received.
  • Keep a list of the people with whom you talk and their job titles, addresses and phone numbers.
  • Always ask who else you should contact prior to the conclusion of your discussion. This referral is sometimes the best lead you can get!

What questions should you ask?

Since you are interviewing for information only, use this opportunity to learn as much as you can about particular occupation. You may want to ask, modify, or add to the suggested checklist of questions here.

Present job

  • Tell me about your present job and some of the responsibilities.
  • Describe how you occupy your time during a typical workweek.
  • What skills or talents are most essential for effectiveness in this job?
  • What are the toughest problems you must deal with?
  • What do you find most rewarding about the work itself, apart from external motivators, such as salary, fringe benefits, travel, etc.?
  • What least interests you about this job, or creates the most problems?


Preparation

  • What credentials, educational degrees, licenses, etc., are required for entry into this kind of work?
  • What kinds of prior experiences are absolutely essential?
  • How did you prepare yourself for this work?
  • How well suited is my background for this type of work?
  • What educational preparation do you feel would be best?
  • What kinds of experiences, paid employment or otherwise, would you most strongly recommend?
  • What courses were of most use to you, or would you recommend for students today?

Prior experience and lifestyle

  • Which of your past work experiences affect what you do now?
  • Have any of your job changes been for reasons of life style?
  • What obligations does your work place upon you, outside of the ordinary workweek? Do you enjoy these obligations?
  • How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, hours of work, vacation schedule, place of residence, etc.?

Supply and demand

  • What types of employers hire people in your line of work? Where are they located?
  • How do people find out about these jobs? Are they advertised online (which sites), in the newspapers (which ones?), by word-of- mouth (who spreads the word?), by the Human Resources Office?
  • Is turnover high? How does one move from position to position? Do people normally move to another organization, or do they move up in the organization?
  • How much do wages or salaries vary in your work by employer or region?
  • What kinds of job-related values are sought in this type of work? (Security, high income, fringe benefits, vacation time.) What form do these considerations take at your place of work? (e.g., what type of pension plan?)

Hiring decisions

  • If you hired someone to work with you today, what factors would be most important in your hiring decision and why? Educational credentials? Past work experiences? Personality? Specific skills? Applicants knowledge of your organization, department or job?

Future career(s)

  • If things develop as you'd like, what would be the next step in your career?
  • If the work you do was suddenly eliminated, what different kinds of work do you feel that you could do?
  • How rapidly is your present career field growing? How would you describe or estimate future prospects?

Referral to others

  • Based on our conversation, what other people do you believe I should talk to?
  • Can you name a few of these people who might be willing to see me? May I have permission to use your name when I call or contact them?

Questions they may ask you

Be prepared that the person whom you are interviewing will probably want to know something about you as well as share information about her/himself. S/he may even tell you of job openings or inquire as to whether or not you are interested in hearing of any. How you answer will depend on where you are in your job search.

You may or may not be ready to commit yourself to a particular occupational field. In any case, try to keep options open for yourself and respond accordingly. Answer questions regarding your skills and background honestly, and with a positive attitude.

What should you do following informational interviews?

  • Send a thank you email or letter. A thank you note will help you be remembered by the contact person in a positive light. Attaching your resume as a reference in your thank-you email may be helpful in allowing your interviewer to forward your information to other contacts. 
  • Keep in touch - cultivate the relationship.
  • At a later date, you might want to send an email or letter expressing interest in working for them, recalling your Informational Interview and attaching/enclosing a copy of your resume. You may also want to telephone the contact person, remind him/her of your Informational Interview and inquire about employment opportunities that they may have knowledge of within your field of interest.