CEN Resources - Informational Interviewing Tips


One of the best sources for gathering information about what's happening in an occupation or an industry is to talk to people working in the field.

This process is called informational or research interviewing.

An informational interview is an interview that you initiate - you ask the questions. The purpose is to obtain information, not to get a job.

Reasons to conduct informational interviews

  • to explore careers and clarify your career goals
  • to expand your professional network
  • to build confidence for your job interviews
  • to access the most-up-to-date career information
  • to identify your professional strengths and weaknesses
  • to discover employment opportunities that are not advertised

Steps to conducting an informational interview

  1. Identify the Occupation or Industry You Wish to Learn About. Assess your own interest, 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. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, can provide valuable industry and occupational information.
  3. Identify People to Interview. Start with lists of people you already know - friends, relatives, fellow students, present or former co-workers, supervisors, faculty, neighbors, etc...Professional organizations, the yellow pages, organizational directories, and public speakers are also good resources. You also may 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
    • through someone who knows the person.
  5. Conduct the Interview. Follow these general rules of conduct:
    • 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. Take a copy of your resume for them to review and provide suggestions.
  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.

Steps to conducting an informational interview

  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 type 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 field 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 name?

Tips for Success

  • Make contact with your interviewee at least two weeks before you expect to meet with them. They may need to arrange their schedules to create time for you.
  • Bring your resume with you to your interview. They may have tips regarding current language in the field, and they may want a copy to pass along to other employers.
  • This is your chance to network. The most common way people are offered positions is through their networks, so take this opportunity to create a strong impression.
  • Treat this interview as you would any professional interview for a job. The impression you make on this employer may lead to future internships, part -time positions or a full time position after graduation.