Explore Career Pathways with Informational Interviews
Last updated September 27, 2023
Are you interested in pursuing a specific career pathway exploring your career options, but aren’t sure where to begin or how to get your foot in the door? Hold an informational interview! Informational interviews are one of the best ways to learn more about the career pathway you’re interested in– directly from a person who’s working in it. Read below to learn everything you need to know about informational interviews: their benefits, tips to prepare for one, and how to make the most out of them.
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is an informal conversation between someone who is established in a particular career, and someone who wants to learn more about it. For example, maybe you are in college and trying to decide on your major. An informational interview with someone in a career you’re interested in could be a great way to narrow your choice! The goal of an informational interview is not necessarily to secure a particular job, but rather, to collect information and make connections. An informational interview, when conducted effectively, can give you a better understanding of the career path you’re interested in and what steps you should take to enter into it.
Benefits of informational interviews
Explore new career opportunities
When conducting this conversation, you can gather useful information about career paths or an industry as a whole that you might not have been able to learn online. Being able to speak with someone who is already established at a company or in a career of interest to you will help you determine if it will be a good fit for you. Not sure where to start? Check out our career exploration library, The Way, for some inspiration!
Expand your professional network
Informational interviewing provides you with an opportunity to deepen existing relationships within your professional network, as well as meet new people to add to it.
Practice for job interviews
While these conversations are not necessarily job interviews, they are an excellent way to practice and hone your professional interviewing skills. While you should ask a majority of the questions, the person you are interviewing will likely ask you questions, too. This gives you an opportunity to think on your feet and provide thoughtful answers to their questions.
Gain insight about career options
Depending on where they are in their career, your interviewee may have a good amount of insight on the kinds of jobs you might want to pursue. They can also speak to current trends in their career path and what direction they see it heading toward. Learning this kind of information from your interviewee can open you up to new career pathways that you might not have known before. For example, if you’re interested in technology and computing, talking with a software engineer might inspire you to research Artificial Intelligence or free coding training.
The person you are interviewing might also be open to sharing tips on what kinds of experience and skills help land people jobs at their company, or be willing to keep their eyes open for potential opportunities in the future.
How to prepare
Research the career pathways you’re interested in
Conducting an informational interview takes preparation. Take time to research 3-5 companies or industries you’re interested in learning more about. Research the kinds of jobs that exist within that industry, what kind of education or training is necessary for them, and what the typical salary range is for these kinds of positions. Doing your homework and learning as much as you can about your desired careers can help make your informational interviews more effective. A site like Indigo Pathways could be a great place to start your research!
Identify who you’d like to interview
Think about who you want to interview. What positions do they hold? What companies do they work for? What information could they give you that you wouldn’t be able to find online? Thinking more specifically about these kinds of things will make it easier for you to identify who you’ll reach out to for an interview.
After you have your list, see if there are people in your network who may know someone in the field or job you are interested in and ask them to connect you. If someone in your network is able to refer you, great! If not, you might need to reach out to someone you don’t know. You can reach out to people either through LinkedIn or by sending them a professional email. It’s important to note again that being prepared matters! Once you’ve secured an interview with someone, do your research on them– their specific position, the company they work for, any relevant awards or achievements, and more. This can make your interview with them more efficient, while showing your interviewee you took the time to come prepared.
Top questions to ask in an Informational Interview
Once you schedule your interview, it's time to prepare your questions. Depending on how long you have, you may not be able to get through all of your questions, so be sure to ask the ones you want answered most at the beginning of the conversation, and save the rest to ask later if there’s time.
Top questions to ask
- What are the duties, functions, and responsibilities of your job?
- How did you get your job?
- Why did you decide to work for this company or in this industry?
- What type of education or training does your company look for?
- What are some trends your industry is setting or following?
- When searching for a job in your field, what keywords should I be sure to include on my resume or cover letters?
- What part of your job do you find most rewarding? Most challenging?
- What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?
While conducting your informational interview, be sure to take notes so you have something to refer to and review later on. You don’t have to write down everything they say, but definitely make sure to jot down any strategies, names, emails, or resources your interviewee may mention.
Stick to your schedule
These should generally be short out of respect for your interviewee’s time. If you requested a 20 minute meeting, be sure to stick to 20 minutes.
Send a thank you note
If someone is taking time out of their day to help you, you should always say thank you. Be sure to send a follow up note to your interviewee within 48 hours of your informational interview– via email or LinkedIn– thanking them for their time and outlining your next steps. If you haven’t already, be sure to add them to your LinkedIn network.
Need some extra help preparing for your informational interview? Text #Jobs to 33-55-77 to get some advice from one of our job coaches.