Informational interviews are conversations with people who have experience of or are working in a company or a career area of interest to you. It will help you get a better understanding of a role or job sector, how to break into it and if it is the right fit for you. It usually takes about 20 minutes but can be longer with if someone is at a more advanced stage in their career search.
- Informational interviews are a great way to meet people in industry, initiate professional relationships and to make a positive impression. This is vital since networking is one of the most common ways to get a job.
- An informational interview gives students and graduates the chance to get information about particular jobs and career areas, information on roles and careers you did now know existed, to get first hand, relevant information about the realities of working in that company, tips on how to prepare for and land your first job, all of which will help you decide whether a certain field or a specific company is right for you.
- For students and graduates who are looking to make a career change, an informational interview can help you determine whether there are additional skills or qualifications you might need to develop to make the change.
- Informational interviews are a way to get yourself known in the “hidden job market”
Are information interviews worth doing?
An informational interview is not a Job Interview, but it can help build your confidence for your first job interview. It is probably the most effective form of networking there is. Networking is crucial because the vast majority of jobs are filled through networking than any other job-hunting technique.
The minimum you will gain from conducting an informational interview is having a better understanding about a particular career and job. You might also get the opportunity to get your CV critiqued. You may also be lucky enough to get someone who becomes a mentor for you.
Steps for Informational Interviews
1. Research Career Areas
Conduct as much research on the wide range of career areas and job opportunities that are available. Take a look at the 'Plan your Career' section of our website to learn more about 'Options with your degree' and what past graduates of your course did after graduation.
2. Find Someone to Contact
- Start with Your Own Network of Contacts, i.e. family, friends, neighbours, coaches, lecturers
- LinkedIn – is the go-to platform for professional networking and has a broad reach across most industries.
- UCC Alumni LinkedIn for Networking guide will give you a step by step overview of how to leverage your University Alumni to network
3. Collect Information from more than one person
- Conduct as many informational interviews as you can when you are researching career and job opportunities. This will give a balanced view as you will not be influenced by one viewpoint (good or bad).
4. Request a Short Interview & Commit to Time Requested
- Send a simple email making it clear the discussion would be at their convenience in a location and/or medium of their preference e.g. phone, skype etc.
- When it is time for the Interview, be punctual, if the interview is being done remotely, be ready in a quiet space where you will have no interruptions, keep to the time agreed.
5. Prepare for the Interview
- Prepare a Brief Introduction of Yourself
- Have about 20 Solid questions ready to ask your questions in order. You will find further information on the types of question to ask below.
Ask questions that show your knowledge and demonstrate that you take this opportunity very seriously. Show respect, by preparing and you will make a good impression.
6. Focus on Collecting Information
- Focus on Collecting Information. This is not a job interview. You can have your CV ready to email after the meeting.
- Get as many contacts as you can - "Do you know someone else who would be a good source of information for me?"
7. Be Professional at All Times
- This isn’t a time to saying anything negative about a past employer or an acquaintance. Don’t rant about sports, politics, religion etc. stay focused on getting information and building relationships.
- Send an immediate thank you by email for the valuable time and information you received.
- When you move to that next step in your career at some point in the future, keep that person up to date with your contact information, to build on your professional network.
Questions to ask at an Informational Interview
Select questions that fit best for you. Use some of the following or make up your own.
- How do you spend a typical day/week?
- What kinds of problems do you deal with
- What are your main responsibilities
- What do you find most/least satisfying?
- What is the competition for jobs in this area
- How often are vacancies advertised
- What would you look for in a new applicant for the job
- Is there a typical career pattern for graduates?
- What is the work culture like?
- What are the typical entry jobs?
- What is the toughest interview question you have ever been asked
- What are the toughest challenges of the industry at the moment
- Are there opportunities for work shadowing or work experience?
- How does your education play into your current career?
- What publications or media are you most interested in currently?
- How do you stay up to date with industry news?
- What education opportunities, workshops, or courses would you recommend learning more about this industry or skill?
- Have you advice about finding mentors to guide you along your career?
- What advice you’ve been given that guides your career?
Expanding Your Network
- Which industry or professional organisations or events do you recommend to get more connected in my career?
- Based on my background and interests, is there anyone you recommend that I should meet ((Don’t forget to ask for an introduction.)
- What’s the best way for us to stay connected?