Informational Interviewing

An informational interview, sometimes called a networking interview, is a conversation that you arrange with someone who is working for an organization, or who is in a role, that interests you. It's a great way to learn about an industry, accelerate your job search, discover new opportunities, get personalized advice and expand your network — all in one conversation!

An informational interview is different from a job interview in two important ways:

  1. You are not trying to get a job. You are trying to learn about working in a particular field from someone who has experience in that field.
  2. You ask the questions.

How to Do Informational Interviews

Step 1: Choose a Field of Interest

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*NET Online are great sources of information about potential career fields.

Step 2: Make a Short List of People to Interview

Use any or all of these suggetions to identify people with whom to do an informational interview:

  • Talk to family, friends, professors or current and former managers to identify people who have experience in your field of interest.
  • Identify organizations whose work interests you, and visit their websites' About, Team or Staff pages to identify individuals who might be good to interview.
  • Use LinkedIn’s “See Alumni” feature to find UC graduates to connect with. Using the LinkedIn search box on your homepage, type in “University of Cincinnati.” Select the page that says “School,” and then click on “See Alumni.” You can explore UC alumni by major, location, industry, company and skills. If you have a connection in common with a potential interviewee, you can request to connect on LinkedIn with that person directly.
  • Board members of local chapters of professional associations tend to be outgoing and happy to talk about working in their profession, especially to young people who are considering a career in it. Whatever your field of interest, chances are there is a professional association with a local chapter, and it should be relatively easy to find a list of board members on their website.

Step 3: Prepare for the Interview

Choose six to eight questions. Here are some examples:

  • Tell me about your career path up to this point.
  • What is rewarding about your job? What is challenging?
  • How has your industry changed over the last few years? What trends do you anticipate in the future?
  • What advice would you give to students or alumni who want to get into this type of work?
  • What personality traits or skills are most helpful to have in this work?
  • What is a typical day like?
  • What is a typical entry-level job title in this field?
  • How would you describe your organization’s culture?
  • Based on what we’ve talked about, do you know of anyone else I should reach out to?

Step 4: Contact Your Interviewee

  1. Find an email address. Use Google, LinkedIn, a company website, personal contacts or the UC Alumni Association.
  2. Send an introductory email asking for a 20–30 minute conversation by phone or in person. Do not ask for help with finding a job. You're not doing this to get a job; you're doing this to learn about working in this field.
  3. If you have had no reply after five business days, politely follow up. It's likely that they didn't see your message or haven't had time to reply.

Sample Email Script for Requesting An Informational Interview

Subject: UC Student Interested in (their career field)

Hi Ms. Carroll,

My name is ____ and I’m a ________ major about to graduate from the University of Cincinnati. I found your information on LinkedIn and am hoping you would be willing to speak with me a bit about your work. I see that you majored in _____ as well, and I’m interested in how to go about finding entry-level positions in this area and what types of graduate programs may be a good fit for this type of work.

Please let me know if you might have 30 minutes to connect with me by phone sometime in the next few weeks. I would love to hear the perspective of someone who’s already in the field so that I can plan my next steps. Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

I’ve attached my resume so that you can get a sense of my background.

Sincerely,
(your full name)
(your phone number)
(your email address)

Step 5: Conduct the Informational Interview

  1. If conducting the interview in person, dress as you would for a job interview.
  2. Arrive early.
  3. Start the conversation with a 10- to 20-second overview of your background and interests.
  4. Ask your prepared questions, while also allowing the conversation to flow organically.
  5. Keep the conversation to 30 minutes.

Step 6: Follow Up

  1. Send a thank-you note for the conversation within 24 hours.
  2. Write down any reactions, observations or insights. Note whether or not this role, company or industry feels like a good fit for you.
  3. If you had a positive interaction, stay in touch with the person. Let them know if you acted on any of their advice, and update them on how things are going for you. They are now part of your network.

Want more help?

Come to walk-in hours for help preparing for or conducting informational interviews.