If you are still in high school or college, it can be intimidating trying to break into the work force. You may not know what skills and qualifications you possess that make you a viable candidate. You may not even know what type of career you are interested in. That is why many professionals are willing to meet with students for informational interviews. This type of interview is not meant to give someone a job. Instead, it is conducted so that you can learn more about a particular company or about a certain field in general.
Finding someone to agree to meet with you should be carried out in a certain way. You should browse through your list of contacts to see if anyone is in a field you are interested in. For example, if you are thinking about going into accounting, you can ask around to see if one of your peers is an intern at a financial firm and if he or she would be willing to put you in touch with one of the higher-ups. Once you have identified someone who could provide you with valuable information, you can begin the interview process.
How to Conduct an Informational Interview
Once you have found someone who would be good to interview, you should contact them either by phone or email. You should briefly mention who you are and how you received their contact information. It is very important to emphasize that you are just looking to learn about their given field and that you are not looking for a job. Most people are happy to talk about their profession, but they do not want to feel like they are being used so that you can advance your career. Next, ask if they would be willing to meet with you for 20 minutes to discuss their occupation. Meeting with them in-person is always best, but if they tell you they can only talk over phone, that will have to do.
If they are willing to meet and they have scheduled a time to meet with you, it is important to treat an informational interview just like you would a normal job interview. That means you need to dress professionally and arrive at the office 10 to 15 minutes early. Feel free to bring a notebook and writing utensil with you so that you can write down any notes. An even more important thing you need to bring with you is questions that are relevant to the career field you are interested in. Some of the questions you will want to consider asking include:
- What is a typical day like for you?
- How did you get started in this field?
- What do you love most about your job?
- How important is GPA in this field?
If it feels appropriate, you can also ask your interviewee if they feel comfortable looking over your resume. Again, you do not want to give the impression that you are just trying to get a job, but simply asking someone to review your resume to see what experiences and skills you already have and which ones you need to gain can be incredibly useful.
After the Informational Interview
Once your interview is over, you should send a nice thank you note within 24 hours that thanks the person for spending the time to meet with you. You can either send an email or send a nice letter through the mail. You should keep the interviewee’s information on file in case you can use them as a reference later down the road. Networking is vital in today’s job market, so if you know that this is a field you want to go in, having someone already know you can be crucial in getting your foot in the door. Even if you decide that this specific field is not right for you, it is always good to brush up on your interviewing skills so that you will feel more relaxed at future interviews.