Informational interviewing

Informational interviewing is a great way to find out about your career field from experienced industry professionals. This is done by targeting your job search to the companies, businesses, organisations, and the positions that are most suited to your specific skills and abilities and of most interest to you. Informational interviewing also helps you develop confidence in approaching others - a skill which proves valuable when developing job leads.

Start with your personal networks and find out if your tutors, colleagues, friends or family know anyone in your field of interest. You could also use websites of professional associations, LinkedIn, careers fairs, exhibitions, employer presentations and the websites of companies or organisations that interest you. Ideally you are looking for people who have been in the position/industry for a reasonable amount of time.

Contact your potential interviewee via email or phone. Start by introducing yourself and providing context by letting them know who referred you to them or how you obtained their details. Clearly state the purpose of your call/email as gathering information and advice for your career planning and ask if you could have a conversation at a time that suits them.

They may prefer to schedule in a time with you or they may be happy to discuss there and then on the phone call - so be prepared with questions either way!

Prepare for the interview by researching the organisation and the person you’ll be speaking with. Think about what insights or information they may have from their previous roles and what you are most interested in learning from their experience.

Most likely you will not have time to ask each of these questions below. They are provided as samples only. It’s important to remember that often the person will answer another question within a response so be mindful of this and keep the conversation relaxed and natural.

Questions about the work role:

  • Can you tell me some of the things you do in a typical week?
  • What are the skills needed?
  • What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of this job for you?
  • Is it different from what you expected?
  • What sort of person do you have to be, in order to be successful at this job?

Questions about getting in:

  • How did you get into the industry/field?
  • Has it changed since you entered?
  • What experience, qualifications and qualities do employers look for?
  • Where are the vacancies advertised?
  • Are there any stepping stone jobs or voluntary experience that I should look for?

Questions about career development:

  • How long do people stay in this organisation?
  • What additional responsibilities can staff take on?
  • What are some of the typical career paths?
  • What type of job might people move on to?
  • How is the work changing? About graduate employment
  • What do employers look for in graduates (academic results, extra-curricular activities, work experience, personal attributes etc)?
  • Are there any internship or work experience programs I could apply for?
  • Is there a formal graduate development program?
  • What projects can graduates expect to participate in?

About the organisation and its culture:

  • What differentiates this organisation from others?
  • What do you view as the benefits and challenges of working for this organisation?
  • …about attitudes to older graduates?
  • …about entry level salaries and progression?
  • What are the misconceptions people have about working here?

And finally:

  • Can you suggest any other people I could learn from?
  • Can you suggest books, websites or professional organisations to consult?

Make sure to follow up within a day of the interview with an email thanking them for their time and professional guidance. Make a note of all the information and advice you received and follow up with any next steps or further contacts they may have suggested.

Connect with them on LinkedIn and seek ways to maintain the connection such as, updates and progress within your own career journey and events/articles they may be involved with.