Career Center

Conducting Informational Interviews

Purpose Steps to Follow How To
Telephone Script 20 Questions Questions for Grad School

Purpose of Informational Interviews:

Want to know what a career is really like? Ask someone with first-hand experience. An informational interview is a brief meeting between a person who wants to investigate a career and a person working in that career. The interviews usually last 20 to 30 minutes at the most. The purpose of an informational interview is not to get a job. Instead, the goal is to find out about jobs you might like-to see if they fit your interests and personality.

Some people who conduct informational interviews discover their dream job isn't so dreamy after all. They learn the truth in time to change course and find a career that suits them. Others have their career goals confirmed.

Specifically, interviews can help you:

  • Learn more about the realities of working in a particular occupation;
  • Decide among different occupations or choose an occupational specialty;
  • Focus career goals;
  • Discover careers you never knew existed;
  • Uncover your professional strengths and weakness; and
  • Find different ways to prepare for a particular career.

Informational interviews also provide an inside look at an organization you may want to work for in the future. And they polish communication skills, helping jobseekers gain confidence and poise before the high-pressure situation of a job interview.

Steps to Follow to Conduct an Informational Interview:

  1. Identify the Occupation or Industry You Wish to Learn About: Assess your own interests, abilities, values, and skills, and evaluate labor conditions and trends to identify the best fields to research.
  2. Prepare for the Interview: Read all you can about the field prior to the interview. Decide what information you would like to obtain about the occupation/industry. Prepare a list of questions that you would like to have answered.
  3. Identify People to Interview: Start with lists of people you already know - friends, relatives, fellow students, present or former co-workers, supervisors, neighbors, etc... Professional organizations, the yellow pages, organizational directories, and public speakers are also good resources. You may also call an organization and ask for the name of the person by job title.
  4. Arrange the Interview: Contact the person to set up an interview: by telephone, by a letter followed by a telephone call, or by having someone who knows the person make the appointment for you.
  5. Conduct the Interview: Dress appropriately, arrive on time, be polite and professional. Refer to your list of prepared questions; stay on track, but allow for spontaneous discussion. Before leaving, ask your contact to suggest names of others who might be helpful to you and ask permission to use your contact's name when contacting these new contacts.
  6. Follow Up: Immediately following the interview, record the information gathered. Be sure to send a thank-you note to your contact within one week of the interview.

How to Conduct an Informational Interview

You should regard each interview as a business appointment and conduct yourself in a professional manner. If you have made clear, in advance, the explicit purpose of your interview you will, in all probability, find your contact an interested and helpful person. Remember the appointment time and appear promptly for your interview. You should neither be too casually dressed nor overdressed. Regular business attire is appropriate. Be sure you know the name of the person you are meeting, the correct pronunciation of his/her name, and the title of his/her position

Telephone script for Requesting Informational Interviews:

Hello, my name is _____________ and I am a freshmen/sophomore/junior/senior at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I am currently enrolled in a freshmen class that encourages us to explore different types of careers. I'm considering a career in _________ and would like to learn as much as I can about the field. I was wondering if I could schedule a time to talk with you for about 10-20 minutes to ask you a few questions about your career?


Prepare a list of your own questions for your informational interview.

The following are some sample questions:

  1. On a typical day in this position, what do you do?
  2. What training or education is required for this type of work?
  3. What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this job?
  4. What part of this job do you find most satisfying? most challenging?
  5. How did you get your job?
  6. What opportunities for advancement are there in this field?
  7. What entry level jobs are best for learning as much as possible?
  8. What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field?
  9. How do you see jobs in this field changing in the future?
  10. Is there a demand for people in this occupation?
  11. What special advice would you give a person entering this field?
  12. What types of training do companies offer persons entering this field?
  13. What are the basic prerequisites for jobs in this field?
  14. Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more about this field?
  15. What do you think of the experience I've had so far in terms of entering this field?
  16. From your perspective, what are the problems you see working in this field?
  17. If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?
  18. With the information you have about my education, skills, and experience, what other fields or jobs would you suggest I research further before I make a final decision?
  19. What do you think of my resume? Do you see any problem areas? How would you suggest I change it?
  20. Who do you know that I should talk to next? When I call him/her, may I use your

Questions for Graduate School Informational Interviews
Compiled by UNCW student Josh Kinchen

  1. What made you decide which school and/or program of study you chose? What specifically were you looking for, in a school and/or program of study?
  2. What were some of the courses that you took? What kind of courses did you take? What kind of courses were offered? What track (if applicable) did you choose and why?
  3. Which courses did you find most challenging? Which courses did you find most useful in your current, post-graduation position?
  4. Describe how classes were taught. Lecture? Seminar? Group Projects?
  5. Are there any specific concentrations, for courses, that you would recommend?
  6. What information/coursework from your undergraduate degree did you use in your graduate program of study?
  7. Describe your research experience. Did you complete a thesis?
  8. Describe what your work experience was, during your program of study? Were you a graduate assistant? Full-time or Part-time employee outside of school? How do you manage work and school?
  9. How close to graduation did I begin applying for jobs?
  10. What was the starting salary for a person, with a graduate degree, from your program?
  11. What specific challenges do you see for new professionals in our field?
  12. When choosing which jobs to apply for, what was your criteria for choosing?
  13. During interviews, were there any common questions or themes that you encountered?
  14. What challenges did you encounter, entering the field as a new professional?
  15. How do you feel your field is changing?
  16. Are there any special certifications, professional associations and/or publications that would be helpful in finding a job?
  17. What are the things that are expected of someone in your profession, that was not taught in undergraduate or graduate studies?
  18. Do you have any other special advice to offer?