Top Ten Tips for a Successful Informational Interview

Shaking Hands

Talking to someone who works, or has worked, in a job or field that you want to learn more about is the basic concept of conducting an informational interview for career exploration and research purposes. The following strategies will help you maximize your chances for a successful informational interview.

All About Being in Information Gathering Mode

A critical aspect in doing a career-related informational interview is to treat the informational interview as an opportunity to gain further knowledge about a job, career field or industry, or even a particular major that you’re interested in and not as an opportunity to ask about getting a job.

Ideally, you will not be in the job hunt mode when conducting an informational interview. Instead of thinking like you’re in a job hunting mode, consider yourself in an information gathering mode. This distinction is important because the pressures stemming from a job hunt are off both you and the person you are interviewing. Consequently, the chances are greater that the informational interview will actually be fun while being informative.

Let’s get to the 10 tips to having a successful informational interview.

  1. Know what your goals are for any informational interview.
  2. Seek people to interview through referrals. Having the person that you know introduce you to the person you hope to interview often produces the best results.
  3. Make sure you have done your homework and researched the career (or major) before you do your informational interview.
  4. Be aware that the person you are interviewing might share more insightful information based on the degree to which you are:
    • prepared (having a list of well thought out questions)
    • professional (being punctual, appropriately dressed, courteous, sticking to 30 minutes if that is the time you originally stated, etc.)
    • engaged and interested (helping to make the interview a comfortable and enjoyable experience, maintaining good eye contact, expressing enthusiasm, etc.)
  5. Though it might be preferable to interview someone face to face, consider alternative methods like:
    • telephone
    • e-mail
    • chat
  6. Try to make a positive impression when meeting with someone the first time even if it’s through a phone call or e-mail. First impressions matter!
  7. Avoid asking personal and other borderline types of questions like, “How much do you make?” See if you can think of alternative, perhaps more acceptable, ways to ask questions that you really want to get answers for, such as the following example for the salary question:
    • “I noticed on that an entry level paramedic earns between such and such per month per month. Would you agree with this pay range for an entry level paramedic?”
  8. Be sure to ask for any referrals. For instance, ask if there’s anyone else that you should be speaking to.
  9. Show your appreciation for the informational interviewee’s time and advice. Send a brief yet courteous thank you message.
  10. If the thought of conducting an informational interview, or asking someone to do it, sounds scary, then practice beforehand with someone you know well.

What do you think of these tips? For those that have conducted an informational interview, what important points did I leave out? Please share below.


3 comments for “Top Ten Tips for a Successful Informational Interview

  1. February 6, 2011 at 7:20 am

    ;*: that seems to be a great topic, i really love it .:;

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