Conducting Informational Interviews
Informational interviewing is a low-pressure way to gather career information from people who are already working in occupations, organizations, or geographic locations of interest to you. Both the content and the information, and the process of gathering it will help you to refine your career goals and possibly discover new ones.
Start by asking people you already know.
- Family, friends, neighbors, professors, or past coworkers may work in the career you want to explore.
- The MIT Alumni Directory, Advisor’s Hub, LinkedIn, and professional associations are other places to find people who are working in your field of interest.
You can request to set up meetings by email, in person, via social networking sites like LinkedIn, or on the phone.
- Introduce yourself and explain how you got their name.
- Tell them you are researching the _______ field and are seeking advice (remember, the purpose of informational interviewing is not to ask for a job or internship).
- Request a 20-30 minute meeting. You can ask if it is okay to meet at their worksite, over the phone or Zoom, or at a safe, public area (e.g. coffee shop).
- Be clear, concise, and courteous in your communication.
Here is a sample request for an informational interview:
|Dear [networking contact],|
[Person], a faculty member in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department at MIT, suggested I contact you. I have been meeting with him as a means of exploring the field of Speech Systems Technology as a potential career option.
He thought you would be a great resource to help me gain insight into the field and focus my career plans. I realize your time is very valuable so I would be grateful if you would be willing to speak with me briefly (20 minutes) at your convenience. I would very much enjoy a chance to ask you some questions.
I have enclosed my resume for review. I thought it might be useful as a way of sharing my background and experience. I can be reached at [your email] or [your phone number]. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
Now it’s time to prepare for your meeting just as you would for an actual job interview.
- Conduct preliminary research on the organization. Knowing some specifics about the occupation and the company will help you to create targeted questions, and show your enthusiasm and professionalism.
- Develop and bring a list of open-ended questions that will help you evaluate if the career is a fit for you.
- It’s important to clarify your objectives before the meeting to determine what information you are seeking. Your goals will change along a continuum from general career research to specific job research advice.
Informational interviews are more casual than job interviews, but you should still make a positive professional impression.
On the day of the interview:
- Arrive early, especially if you are meeting a public place such as a coffee shop. This will ensure you are able to find a place to sit.
- Lead the conversation. Start by thanking the individual for their time.
- Monitor the time and attempt to keep the interview within the specified time. You want to be respectful of the other persons commitments.
- Show gratitude after the interview by sending a thank-you email or note within 24 hours.
Take a moment after the interview is done to reflect on the following:
- What did you like? What positive impressions do you now have about this area or work, organization, occupation, or other attributes shared?
- Did you discover any new concerns about or advantages from the information they shared?
- How does this information help you to clarify your own career objectives? Did you discover another occupation or organization you might want to learn about?
- What are your next steps? With whom else do you plan to talk?
Beware of relying too heavily on the views or advice of only one or two people. When you are conducting informational interviews, be prepared to talk with several individuals to get a good, well-rounded perspective.
Keep a document with a record of the people with whom you have interviewed, the dates of the meeting, what was discussed, and names of additional contacts. The people you meet are potential members of your professional network.