The Career Series: Informational Interviews
Informational interviews are a key component of the job search process. They are a great way to get information about different types of jobs, and the different people doing them. It’s also a great way to figure out what you want to do next. By conducting short informational interviews with a variety of people, you can get more information and learn what a specific job (or field) entails, to know if it’s something you are interested in doing, and what specific skills or requirements or necessary.
WHAT is an informational interview?
An informational interview is a short interview conducted with a person to learn more about what they do. Generally, an informational interview should cover:
- A person’s current position
- How they got into that field/position
- Long term opportunities in the field
- Any advice: contacts, feedback, professional societies, insights
You should plan to ask about them personally and ask generally about the job. You should also ask about how the job search process functions in this field.
HOW do you get one?
You ask! You should plan to ask:
- People you know best first, such as your friends, peers, mentors and supervisors
- Then ask your professional acquaintances, co-workers, friends of friends
- Finally, ask people you don’t know, for example contacts from alumni databases*, experts in the field, professional association connections, or referrals from colleagues
Send a short, concise email stating who you are, how you know (or found) them, that you are exploring career options in their field and would like to get more information. Ask for 20 minutes of their time for a telephone or Zoom call. You’ll be surprised how many people say yes! Generally, people enjoy talking about themselves and love helping students.
WHY should you do one?
Informational interviews are an important networking tool, and networking is essential to a job search. Reasons for networking include:
- Tap into the hidden job market
- Gain visibility for future openings, get referrals
- Good people know other good people, and people like to hire people they know
- Make connections and receive advice
- Informational Interviews are all about asking for information, NOT to ask for a job.
- Follow up is key, and often overlooked! Email a thank you within 48 hours of your info interview.
- Prepare your interview questions in advance and have your elevator speech ready
- Listen more than talk
- Respect their time
This article was written by Mary Bradley, GSBS Director of Career and Professional Development and is based upon a recent NIH OITE webinar on Informational Interviews with Amanda Langer. For more details, click to access the slides, or register to view the entire webinar. Happy Networking!
*Reminder: you can access & join the GSBS Alumni database while you are still a student! This is a great way to connect with our alums and is a great resource for informational interview. Visit https://www.gsbsalumni.com now and set up your account.