What is an Informational Interview?
Informational interviews are a key component of the career search process. Informational interviews are career conversations that offer an opportunity to ask questions of a professional to gain insights and learn about their work.
They can be in-person, over the phone, or via Skype or Zoom. These conversations provide valuable opportunities for research and are an important step in building professional relationships. Informational interviews are NOT job interviews. The goal of an informational interview is not to land a job, the goal is to gain knowledge about a job function/company/industry and to begin to build a professional relationship with your contact. If, someday, that connection leads to a job, that’s terrific! Either way, what you learn through the process of conducting informational interviews will continue to pay dividends throughout your search and, potentially, your career. Everything you learn will help you to either refine or expand your search, and will shore up your professional understanding.
Start with people you already know and who they know. DO NOT PUSH FOR A JOB! You are doing research and need some people to talk to so that you can learn more about your target job function, company, or industry.
- Use LinkedIn’s alumni search tool.
- Use Lundquist Connect, a platform just for the Lundquist College of Business community that allows students to connect with alumni and other friends of the college for advice, networking, and mentorship. Think of it like a warm LinkedIn; every alumnus on the platform has raised their hand to volunteer to be available to you and to help you advance your career journey!
- Attend in-person/virtual career fairs and (depending on availability) on-campus recruiting events.
- Leverage the UO Alumni Association.
- Check out some affinity and identity-based groups for possible ways to connect via networking:
- Ask potential contacts to connect first (see Creating a Customized Invitation to Connect.pdf in “Career Resources”).
- Once your contact has consented to connect, reach out through the “Messaging” feature, give your new connection a little more information about your interests/goals and request an informational interview (see Sample Emails for Networking and Informational Interviewing.pdf in “Career Resources”).
Using Lundquist Connect:
Lundquist Connect is a platform just for the Lundquist College of Business community that allows students to connect with alumni and other friends of the college for advice, networking, and mentorship. Think of it like a warm LinkedIn; every alumni on the platform has raised their hand to volunteer to be available to you and to help you advance your career journey!
- Log on to Lundquist Connect, build a profile and complete the Matching Quiz to receive suggestions for potential connections among UO alumni, students, and friends of the College.
- Select a profile and read about the individual. Do you have any interests/experiences in common?
- Reach out via the built-in email templates. Consider asking a question or trying to set up an informational interview (follow the suggestions in the email templates).
- Draft an email to introduce yourself and ask for a conversation (see Sample Emails for Networking and Informational Interviewing in “Career Resources”).
- When requesting an informational interview, keep your email short and to the point.
- Identify yourself and how you’re connected to the professional. “I’m a fellow Duck.”
- Let them know what you want to know. “I’m interested in finding out about what it’s like to work in ___ field.Make the ask. “Would you be willing to chat with me for 20 minutes about your experience?”
- Give yourself permission to follow up. “I’m sure you’re busy, so if I don’t hear from you by ___, I’ll follow up with you.”
- Creating a Customized Invitation to Connect
- Sample Emails for Networking and Informational Interviewing
- Do some research so that you feel familiar with a job function, company, or industry before you begin your conversation.
- Review the company website and any available information/articles about the company.
- Read through your contact’s LinkedIn profile. Note any areas of common interest and begin to prepare some questions.
- If you have been referred by one of your existing connections, ask your connection for a little information on the new contact, using context to shape your questions.
- Develop some questions. See Preparing for an Informational Interview.pdf in the “Career Resources” section to the left. Focus on genuinely getting to know people, asking them questions, and learning how their experiences and passions got them where they are.
VMock Elevator Pitch is an exciting new tool that enables you to practice and get immediate feedback on your elevator pitch, particularly useful for virtual informational interview settings.
Conducting the Interviews
- Approach every interaction with a positive mindset. If you were referred by one of your connections, be sure to say something positive about that connection to this new contact. Remember: No one is required to introduce you to their own connections. If they do so, show gratitude and be sure to make a good impression!
- Be on time, look professional, smile and make good eye contact.
- Listen for challenges, which you may be able to use your skills and abilities to solve.
- Stay with your contact’s energy—if they’re excited to talk about macro issues, keep asking questions there; if they’re excited to talk about their insights, stay there.
- What major changes do you see coming in your industry?
- What do you like/dislike about this position/company?
- Why did you choose this career field?
- Looking back, if you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently?
- If you were in my shoes, what would you be doing? E.g., classes to take? Experience?
- What are the essential skills or personality traits required to do this job well?
- Is there anyone you can suggest who would have a different perspective on this occupation? May I use your name as a referral?
- What are the most important problems your position/company will face in the coming year?
- Ask for referrals at the end of the interview. “You’ve been so helpful! As I continue to build my knowledge of ____________ , can you think of anyone else I might speak with?”
Send thank you notes to the new contact and to any connections that assisted with the referral. No matter how the conversation went, it is courteous to thank the connection who made the introduction or referral.
Follow Up & Stay in Touch
Have you ever wondered how to continue to follow up with networking connections once you’ve had an informational interview or exchanged emails? It can feel awkward to reach out again, but continuing to reach out in a professional and authentic way is the key to building and maintaining your professional network. Remember, you are going to need a professional network throughout your career, so make it a priority to continue building relationships with your contacts. This can be done through email, LinkedIn, periodic phone calls, etc. Tailor your approach to your specific contact.
- After an informational interview, connect with your new contact on LinkedIn, if you haven’t already.
- Mark your calendar to follow up with them on resources they shared, useful advice they gave you, or to update them on your progress.
- See Networking Follow Up Sample Communications.pdf in the “Attachments “Career Resources” section below.
- Reach out about a shared interest—something you and your contact found that you have in common through the course of your informational interview
- Share articles that you think your contact might find interesting, based on your conversation.
- Ask to meet up again over time.
- Review Sample Emails for Networking and Informational Interviews.pdf (thank you e-mails included) in the Career Resources section below.