An informational interview is an opportunity to speak with professionals in your field in an informal setting to learn more about a specific organization or industry. This is a great way to help you think more purposefully about your professional future and what you would like to pursue while building a professional network.
You may feel intimidated to initiate an informational interview with someone you don’t know, however, we’ve got some great tips to help you with locating and connecting with professionals to conduct a successful interview!
1.What do you want to know?
Determine what information you would like to learn from the interview. Begin by brainstorming your professional aspirations, career goals, job titles you would like to pursue, and organizations you would like to work with. This will help you narrow down the type of professionals you will want to interview.
2. Find professionals to interview.
First, consider who is already in your circle. You will be surprised who you already know. Furthermore, you may know someone who can connect you to colleagues they know. Networking at it’s finest! Reach out to friends and family to determine if they know someone working in the field or career you are interested in pursuing- ask if they can connect you to that person.
If you have exhausted your circle and have difficulty finding someone, try reaching out to professors and alumni from your institution in your field to determine if they might be a good interview resource or know someone they can introduce you to.
Another option is to join a professional organization in your field and attend a local chapter meeting with professionals in your area. First-hand connections in these kinds of organizations are a great way to build your professional network. If you are not sure about legitimate professional organizations in your area, contact Career Services for assistance!
3. Establish a connection.
Now that you have found a few professionals to interview, your next step is to introduce yourself and explain why you would like to interview them regarding their profession or career path.
Below is an example of an introduction email:
My name is Emma Smith, I am currently completing my Sustainable MBA at Unity College. I am very interested in becoming a Sustainability Coordinator for an organization similar to ___________ (name of organization). I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss your profession in an informational interview. I hope to acquire a greater understanding of the work you do on a daily basis and learn more about some of the projects you are engaged in. I would appreciate hearing your perspective.
I look forward to hearing from you, and hope we have an opportunity to talk soon. Thank you for your time.
4. Prepare for your interviews.
Now that you have received positive replies, it is time to develop questions for the interviewees. Whether you are meeting at their office, conducting a phone interview, or sending an email, it is very important to make the most of your time with the professional by asking well-informed questions. Do some research ahead of time to learn about their organization to avoid wasting time having the professional explain the information you could have found online.
Ask them about their career path and how they transitioned into their current position. Inquire about their professional goals earlier in their career and if they feel their current work aligns or exceeds those goals. Discuss what a typical workday entails, the types of projects they are involved in, as well as big-picture/large-scale projects at their organization. Inquire about the most fulfilling aspects of their current position. You can also ask them to discuss the most challenging aspect of their job. Be creative and ask questions about their industry, and get their perspective on various hot-topics related to your field of study- without prying.
As you complete the interview, be sure to thank the professional for their time. Ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn and if you can contact them again as you continue to forge your own professional path. This informational interview is a great way to grow your professional network. Now that you know someone working in your field, and you’ve spent quality time engaged in conversation, you are well on your way to building a network. You never know what opportunities these connections could lead to!
5. Send a Thank You note.
It’s important to follow-up your interview by sending a formal thank you note. This can be done through email or through regular mail. You should thank the professional for their time, and be sure to include a highlight from your conversation. The note is a great way to distinguish you from others, as well as acknowledge that you value that professional’s time.
Congratulations! You are now on your way to building a strong professional network in your field and connecting with individuals who may be great resources in the future. Be sure to follow-up by connecting with them on LinkedIn, to stay engaged over time. Continue the informational interviews, even after earning your degree and accepting a position. It’s a great way to meet new people, learn about various aspects of your field, and enhance your career path.