Informational Interviews

What is an Informational Interview?

  • The informational interview is an opportunity to learn about a career which interests you by meeting or talking with someone who is working professionally or who has completed an internship in that field.
  • In a question-and-answer session in person or via phone you will learn first-hand about a job directly from someone who performs or has performed the tasks daily.

Arranging an Informational Interview

  • Your Career Advisor at the Pomerantz Career Center can help you “brainstorm” potential people to interview. Friends, parents, friends’ parents, and parents’ friends are potential sources of locating people who might be willing to participate in an informational interview with you.
  • Use LinkedIn to find Iowa alums to network with or to set up informational interviews. Your Career Advisor can teach you more about using LinkedIn, or see pages 45-46 in the Career Guide for more information.
  • Prioritize your list based on areas of greatest interest to you and convenience of arrangements.  Select two or three prospective subjects to interview.  When you contact them, identify yourself as a student at The University of Iowa, state that you are interested in the career or internships they have chosen, and ask if they mind meeting or speaking with you for 20-30 minutes to discuss their career and to answer some questions.
  • See Sample Informational Interview Email below.

Preparing for an Informational Interview

  • Consider what you want to learn during the interview and select questions accordingly.
  • Utilize Informational Interview Questions to help you select your questions.
  • If meeting in-person dress for the job you are investigating and arrive 10-15 minutes early.
  • If speaking with the volunteer over the phone be sure that you have reception and are in a quiet place.
  • Bring or email a copy of your resume in case it is requested.  However, don’t approach the interview as if you are looking for a job—your purpose is to gather information.

Informational Interview Etiquette

  • Be sure to give your volunteer ample time to schedule the informational interview. 
  • It is not appropriate to email them the day before and ask to meet or speak with them the following day.

Evaluation and Follow Up

  •  Evaluate your experience. What did you learn from it? Do you have new questions? Did the interview reinforce your interest in this career? How does this career “fit” you? Talk with your Career Advisor about it.
  • Keep names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your contacts for future reference. 
  • Send a brief thank you note to each person you interviewed thanking them for their time.

 

Sample Email

Subject Line: Informational Interview Request

Dear Mr./Ms. XYZ,

I found your name through LinkedIn through The University of Iowa alumni group and I wanted to contact you about information pertaining to careers in accounting. Your experience would be insightful to me as I choose my own career.

Schedule permitting, I am hoping that I could conduct a brief informational interview with you during the week of May 20th to learn more about your career path. I would really appreciate any insight you could provide to me about careers in accounting.

I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Sincerely,

Jan Student
jan-student@uiowa.edu

 

Informational Interview Questions

Position-Related Questions

  • What is your job/internship like?
    • A typical day?
    • What do you do? What are the duties/functions/responsibilities?
    • What kinds of problems do you deal with?
    • What kinds of decisions do you make?
    • What percentage of your time is spent ____ or how does this time use vary?
  • What did you decide to work for this company?
  • Was your internship paid or unpaid? What is the starting salary range for this position?
  • What do you like most about this company/position?
  • What would you most like to change about your position?
  • What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field? How did you learn these skills? How can I evaluate whether or not I have the necessary skills for a position such as yours?
  • Why did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
  • how did you find your job or internship?
  • What jobs and experiences have led to your present position?
  • What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?
  • Does your company offer full-time employment to interns following their internship?

Industry, Field, or Career Path Questions

  • What are the various jobs in this field or organization?
  • How does your company differ from its competitors? 
  • What sorts of changes are occurring in your occupation?
  • How does a person progress in your field? What is a typical career path in this field or organization?
  • What were the keys to your career advancement? How did you get where you are and what are your long-range goals?
  • If you could do things over again, would you choose the same path? Why? What would you change?
  • How much travel and/or geographic relocation is required in your field? 

College Involvement Questions

  • Does your work relate to any experiences or studies you had in college?
  • How well did your college experience prepare you for t his job/internship?
  • What courses have proved valuable to you in your work? What would you recommend for me?
  • How important are grades/GPA for obtaining a job/internship in this field?
  • Are there any written materials you suggest I read? Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more about this field?
  • What are the educational requirements for this job? What other types of credentials or licenses are required? What types of training do companies offer persons entering this field? Is graduate school recommended? Does this company encourage and pay for employees to pursue graduate degrees?

Advice Questions

  • What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you recommend for persons pursuing a career in this field?
  • What special advice do you have for someone seeking to qualify for this type of position?
  • Can you suggest other people I might be able to speak with who have similar career interests?
  • [If you feel comfortable and it seems appropriate] Would you mind taking a look at my resume?