Choose Your Major/Career

Informational Interviews

Definition:

  • Opportunity to spend time (usually 30 minutes) with professional in a career field of interest
  • Time for YOU to ask questions

Benefits:

  • Acquire information and establish connections for networking purposes
  • Enhance your interviewing skills through the meeting and interviewing of a "stranger"
  • Provide you with possibilities for future internship, part-time or volunteer experience

Setting Up the Informational Interview

Identify a professional to contact in a career field of interest to you.

People to ask:

  • fellow students
  • professors and administrators
  • family
  • hometown neighbors
  • former supervisors/co-workers

Places to Look:

  • Yellow Pages
  • professional associations
  • company websites
  • periodicals

Do background homework before contacting the employer.

  • Identify specific things of interest that this person can provide to you.
  • Compile a list of 15 questions to ask during the interview.

Contact the professional via phone or email.

  • Speak directly to the person, if at all possible, or ask what the best procedure would be to contact him/her.
  • Have a written telephone "script" ready (see example) to explain why you are calling and what you hope to get out of a meeting with this person.
  • Identify a convenient time for you to meet at his/her worksite.

Prepare for the day of the informational interview.

  • Call to confirm the appointment the day before the actual interview.
  • Identify an outfit to wear to the interview. Dress professionally to make a great impression!
  • Take copies of your resume, your 15 questions, and materials to take notes. Keep it in a nice notebook!

During the actual interview

  • Arrive in the office 15 minutes early. Be courteous to everyone that you meet.
  • Shake hands and introduce yourself.
  • Be conscious of time-30 minute interview is fine, unless the professional initiates extra time.
  • At the end of the interview, thank the person for his/her time and shake hands as you leave.
Immediately after the interview...
  • Write down all of the answers to the questions that you asked.
  • Jot down information about any follow-up activities discussed or names of other professionals to contact.
  • Within 2 days, send a typewritten thank you letter to the professional.

Telephone Script Ideas

  • Provide a brief introduction of yourself for the professional. State that you are a student who is seeking advice and information on this person's career or industry.
  • Explain how you found out about this person (through your roommate, through a neighbor, from the Yellow Pages, etc.).
  • Identify what you hope to get out of a meeting with this person (information on the person's current job? information on person's career? information on general career field?)
  • Once the interview date has been established, verify the specific address, location, date, and time before you hang up.

Sample:

Hello, my name is Jane Bulldog. I was given your name by John Smith. I am a sophomore at MSU and am interested in arranging an informational interview. I am interested in learning more about the field of nutrition and your position as a registered dietician. Is this a good time for me to try to set up a meeting with you or someone on your staff? If not, when would be a good time for me to try to call you back? I would like to meet with you for about a half hour at your convenience. Would you be available to speak to me during the week of September 25?

Possible Informational Interview Questions

1. How did you get started in this field?
2. What was your educational background?
3. What are your major responsibilities?
4. What do you like most about your job (what is the most rewarding aspect of it)?
5. What do you like least about your job?
6. What is a "typical" day like for you?
7. What are some lifestyle considerations for this career field?
8. What are some common entry level positions in the field of __________________?
9. What kind of salary range and benefits could an entry level position expect to receive?
10. What kind of an individual (skills and personality) would be best suited for these entry level positions? What are the most important factors used when hiring?
11. What do you think is the best educational preparation for a career in this field?
12. Which classes would you recommend that I take to gain more skills?
13. What types of experiences do you think would be helpful to obtain while still in college for this field?
14. What have you found to be a major weakness of new hires in this field?
15. How do people usually find out about full-time openings in this field?
16. Is it effective to simply send in a resume when seeking employment? Why/why not?
17. What are other careers related to yours that I might investigate?
18. What is the future outlook for this career field?
19. What are the areas of potential growth and decline in this field in the future?
20. Can you recommend other types of organizations in this field that I might contact should I consider pursuing this career? Can you recommend any specific person for me to talk with?