How to Conduct Informational Interviews

Finding Someone to Interview

Brainstorm about people you know who may have contact with someone in your industry or organization of interest. Take the initiative to call that person and let him or her know what information you’re seeking.

Here are some other ways to find someone:

Almost anyone in an organization can be a good starting place. Often the person can refer you to people “up the line.” And it’s always good to get more than one perspective.

Setting Up the Interview

  • Call or visit the business in person to set up an informational interview. If you prefer to make contact via email or LinkedIn, be sure to indicate that you will follow up (and when).
  • If you are starting from scratch, call or visit the business and explain to the receptionist that you are researching career options and are hoping to meet with someone who does______ (a role or career you are interested in). Ask whom the receptionist would recommend you connect with. You may get transferred several times before finding the right person.
  • If you have a referral, indicate who recommended the connection and the reason you are reaching out.
  • Explain who you are and state your reason for calling: “I am a student at Seattle Pacific University and I am exploring careers in ____. I am interested in ____ and was hoping to talk to someone to learn more about it. Would you be willing to meet with me for a brief interview about what you do?”
  • Clarify that you are seeking information for career research purposes and not looking for a job or internship.
  • Set up an appointment to meet in person at a time and place that is convenient for the person you’ll be interviewing. Exchange contact information and request an address or directions if necessary. Follow up with an email to confirm the appointment.

Preparing for the Interview

  • Read about the occupation, industry, and company before you go. This should familiarize you with some of the terminology and ideas you will encounter.
  • Write out specific questions you want to ask. Think through the things that are important to you. What do you really want to know? Don’t ask a question if the answer could be found in printed or online material.
  • Be sure to present yourself professionally and dress appropriately.

Conducting the Interview

Introduce yourself and state your purpose. Be prepared to share why you are excited about exploring the industry and learning more from the person’s perspective. A well-prepared introduction will help get the meeting flowing. Have your list of questions; refer to them and take notes. Time will go by quickly, so listen actively and take good notes. Honor the time limitations you initially set. After 20 minutes, offer to end the interview, but be prepared to stay if the person wants to spend more time with you.

Thank the person for his/her time and be sure to ask for a business card. Send an email to thank them for their time and within 24 hours, send a brief thank-you note. If appropriate, ask to connect with the person on LinkedIn.

Tips

  1. Be certain of the kind of information you are seeking: e.g., information about the industry, the company or organization, the specific or general occupation, or the career direction.
  2. Be sure to stick to the agreement you made with the person you’re interviewing, that this is an informational conversation only. You can ask how a person effectively begins a career with the company or ask what suggestions the person has for a job search, but don’t ask for a job or an interview.
  3. Ask whether the person would be willing to connect you with anyone else who might be able to offer advice.
  4. Remember this is a reciprocal relationship and you also have something to offer. Stay in the front of the person’s mind through sending “touching base” emails with industry-related articles or blog postings of interest, and updates about your progress in career exploration.
How to conduct an informational interview with Daniel Hallak

How to Run an Informational Interview

SPU Professional Development Specialist Daniel Hallak walks you through how to do an effective informational interview.

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