Tips for Informational Interviews via Phone or Video Chat
The Basics of Informational Interviews
Here’s a refresher on the basics of informational interviews.
1. An informational interview is an opportunity for you to learn about a new career field, connect with people working in that field, to research businesses and organizations in your area, and to learn about opportunities. It is never an opportunity to ask for a job.
- You can tell someone you are “looking to transition” into their particular line of work.
- You can tell people you are currently looking for work.
- You should ask people if the know of any opportunities or people you should talk to.
2. When emailing to set up an informational interview, specify how long you would like to speak with that person (keep it to no more than 30 minutes). Make sure you arrive promptly and keep to the time limit.
3. Prepare for an informational interview.
- Research the company and industry thoroughly. You do not want to ask questions you can learn on a website or through a google search. (See sample questions below.)
- Research your potential career field. What are the leading trends? Concerns?
- Have a clear sense of what you can bring to the organization.
- Prepare your elevator pitch so you can articulately explain what you do and what types of opportunities you are looking for.
- Prepare your work experience stories so you have concrete examples that showcase what you can do for a company.
4. Have a strategy.
- What do you hope to gain from your informational interview?
- What type of information do you want to learn from this person?
- Prepare a list of question you want to ask (see below for tips). It is o.k. to pull out a piece of paper to remind yourself of the questions. It will show the person you are prepared and aren’t wasting their time.
- Be prepared to ask for names and contact information of others who you should contact.
Tips for Phone/Virtual Informational Interviews
- First, reach out with the understanding that this may not be the right time for many people (you can include this in your message if you’d like). Some people may be swamped or not able to devote energy to this right now—don’t despair and give up if you receive a “no.” (Hint: everyone conducting informational interviews will receive some no’s or lack of responses. This is normal; sometimes emails are missed, forgotten about, or someone simply may not have the time right now). There are others who will be thrilled to take a break from their remote work and will be happy to speak with you. Keep trying.
- Prepare just like you would for an in-person meeting. This means dressing business casual dress if you’re using video (this can even help give you motivation for phone conversations!) and making sure you’ve done your research into the industry.
- Set an agenda for yourself and take charge of the informational interview—you don’t want the interviewee to feel obligated to lead the discussion. As you both get to know each other and become more comfortable, the conversation will continue more naturally, and you can deviate from the agenda.
- Convey enthusiasm and practice listening skills. It is easier not to talk over someone when you meet them in person or via video-chat, but phone conversations (especially with new contacts) will require you to use your best listening skills.
- Practice video or phone interviews with people you feel comfortable with first: family, friends, alumni, etc. Work on your listening and conversation skills.
- Small, practical tip: have water handy!
- Small, practical tech tip: make sure you’ve tested your mic, video, and internet connection.
- Always send a follow-up email, ideally within 24 hours, to thank them. Even if they don’t answer, it’s a polite gesture and acknowledgement that they shared their time. And keep in touch! Check-in via email or LinkedIn every few months. Let them know if their advice helped or you had a great informational interview with a contact they suggested.
Sample Informational Interview Questions
1. How did you end up/why did you choose this particular career?
2. What do you enjoy most about your work?
3. What do you enjoy most about your place of work?
4. How would you describe the organizations’ culture?
5. What types of employment training programs are available at your place of work?
6. What positions did you hold prior to your current job?
7. Is this a growing or shrinking industry? In what ways?
8. What is a typical day like for someone in your position?
9. What are the biggest challenges that your organization is currently facing? What are some of your organization’s strategies for handling these challenges?
10. What types of skill sets do people need to enter this line of work?
11. How would someone with my background enter this particular field?
12. What is the typical career trajectory, from entry level to upper management.
13. Do you know of any professional organizations or networking events I should join or attend?
14. Do you know of any current openings or opportunities – internships, part-time, or full-time?
15. Do you know anyone else who I should speak to learn more about this career field? I’m eager to make more contacts within this profession.
16. Would you be willing to email them to let them know about me and that I will be contacting
them? Or, would you be willing to introduce us via LinkedIn.
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