How To Informational Interview
Informational Interviewing is the process of talking to people who have jobs that interest you so you can learn more about the profession. The primary objectives of informational interviewing are to:
- Investigate a specific career field.
- Learn the terminology and important issues in the field.
- Develop a network of contacts for future reference.
- Create a plan for entering the area of interest.
Informational interviewing is an effective tool in your approach to career planning. It will require some planning and organization on your part. To schedule an appointment call, email or write a letter to the person you want to interview and:
- Introduce yourself.
- Tell them why you are calling.
- If you are calling as the result of a referral, mention the other person's name.
- Let them know up front how much time you're asking for. Keep it to about 20-30 minutes.
- Don't expect them to talk to you on this phone call. Arrange another mutually convenient time.
- Try if at all possible to arrange a face-to-face meeting. If this is not possible, you might need to interview over the phone.
- Be prepared to do the interview on the spot if the person invites you to and if they sound like they really have the time. You want to be sure you have their attention.
If you email or write a letter be sure to: let them know that you will be calling to follow up and arrange a mutually convenient time and check your email/letter for proper spelling and grammar. Remember, this is your first impression, you want the person to take you seriously. Be professional and polite.
- Keep a record of who you contacted and when so that if they call you, you will know who they are and from which company.
BEFORE the interview:
- Learn as much as you can about the industry, about the company and about the person you will be meeting with.
- Think of your key questions and write them down in a logical order. Take notes and make sure you are listening.
- Dress professionally.
- Bring printed copies of your resume.
- Arrive 10 minutes before your appointment.
DURING the interview:
- Discuss the purpose for your visit and why you are speaking with this specific person.
- Be prepared to begin the conversation, since YOU are the interviewer.
- Limit your interview to 20-30 minutes.
- Ask for referrals of other individuals in the field or in related organizations.
- Keep in mind that this is an information-gathering and advice-seeking interview, NOT an employment interview.
AFTER the interview:
- Send a thank-you note and keep the individual up-to-date on your progress.
- Evaluate the information you received. What did you learn? Is this a career you would like to pursue?
- Periodically touch base with the individual; maintain a relationship.
- Review your interview style. What could you have done better? Use what you have learned when you conduct your next interview.
How To Job Shadow
Job shadowing is closely related to Informational Interviewing in that you meet with a professional to learn more about a career field. Where an informational interview typically lasts about a half-hour, a job-shadowing experience can be anywhere from a few hours, to a day, to a week or more, depending on what you arrange with the person you've chosen to shadow.
To learn how to prepare, schedule and complete a job shadowing experience, follow the guidelines for Informational Interviewing. Informational interviewing can be an excellent opportunity for you to express interest in job shadowing experience. For additional help getting started contact NPC's Career Services.
Some tips for a successful job shadowing experience:
1. Wear appropriate attire for the experience. If you are unsure what this might be, inquire with the person you will be shadowing.
2. Prepare a list of questions: What does a typical day look like in this job? Are there special skills I need to perform this job?
3. Observe everything:
- Do people seem happy or are they stressed?
- At the end of the day, do people hang around or does everyone dash for the door?
- How do people communicate with each other; telephone, email or in person?
4. Request a copy of the company’s organizational chart, a job description and samples of work from the person you are shadowing.
5. If you are getting along well with your professional, consider asking if they may critique your resume or advise you on interviewing for a similar position.
6. Make certain to get a business card from your professional and stay in contact to learn about possible job opportunities.
7. Always send a thank you note; discuss the highlights of the experience and end on a positive note.