Informational Interviews

Why Conduct an Informational Interview?

Informational interviews are extremely important and insightful in order to help confirm or reassess your career goals. Informational interviews should be a key element in any career and/or job search plan in gain better insight from current industry personnel and understand the rewards/challenges that currently face your industry/career/job of interest.

It is important to note that informational interviews are an opportunity to gather information and begin making networking contacts -- they are not a job or internship service. When you do decide to go job hunting, having established your Gaucho network will help. Networking contacts may not always be in geographic proximity to you, but these individuals may be able to provide you more contacts through their networks. Also, it is important to interview more than one person, as opinions and information could be biased.

An informational interview can help you overcome four common obstacles
  1. You may lack knowledge about a career field. Informational interviewing allows you to learn more about the job titles, duties, and personality traits of people in the industry.
  2. You may feel that you lack relevant work experience to achieve your goals. Informational interviews can provide an opportunity to ask specific questions about education and experience needed to pursue this career. Also, a working knowledge about an organization's mission and structure can sometimes compensate for lack of experience.
  3. In many fields, few jobs are ever openly advertised. A job hunter may not come into contact with these jobs if he/she does not know where to look. Some employment specialists estimate that only one job in six is advertised in a classified ad, personnel office or on a placement office bulletin board. The rest are "discovered" and filled through word-of-mouth between professional colleagues. Informational interviewing can help you develop contacts among influential people who might provide assistance when you begin your job hunt.
  4. Most job hunters ask only personnel representatives and receptionists for information about job opportunities. Very often these individuals do not know about the total range of jobs available, the feasibility of non-traditional jobs or the existence of jobs that are not advertised. Informational interviewing allows you to get this information from people who do have it -- people performing the kind of jobs in which you are interested, or their immediate supervisors.

Preparation for the Informational Interview

  1. Phone or email the alumnus/a to schedule a phone appointment or a mutually convenient place and time to meet. It is best if you can visit the alumnus/a at his or her place of business during regular business hours so you can see the work environment.
 If geographic distance is an issue, then schedule a time for a phone call. Don’t make your initial call expecting to speak at length with that person. Scheduling time is important and a courtesy to the professional with whom you desire to speak. When makinging contact for the first time, introduce yourself as a UCSB alumnus/a or student with a major in __________ and a career interest in __________ desiring to conduct an informational interview. If leaving a message or emailing, indicate the purpose of your call since alumni are often involved with other UCSB programs. Your conversation could begin as follows: "My name is Gary Gaucho and I am a student/alumnus from UCSB majoring in communication with an interest in a public relations career. I received your contact information from _________, and I am interested in speaking and/or meeting with you to set up a 30-minute informational interview to learn more about your job and career to help me better assess my entry into the field."

    Do not become discouraged if your alumnus/a asks that you contact him or her at a later date because they are busy at the time of your initial call. Follow up with your phone calls.
  2. Collect background information on the career field and the person you will be meeting via the internet. Your meeting will be more productive if you have some basic knowledge of the field.
  3. Know what it is you want to take away from the conversation
  4. If meeting in person, wear business attire as you would for an interview (e.g., suit, tie, dress, etc.). This will not only prepare you for job interviews but will also leave a favorable impression on a potential contact. If you suggest to meet over lunch or coffee, then suggest a place nearby to your contact’s place of work and do pay the bill. Otherwise, you might want to ask what is most convenient for the person you are contacting: “Is it best to meet you in your office for a 30 minute discussion or may I meet you at a nearby place to buy you coffee or lunch?”
  5. Have a pen and notepad to make notes of pertinent information. Have a 1-2 minute pitch prepared that succintly describes your background and what your goals are.
  6. Review the questions under the header above titled "Quetions for the Visit" and and note the ones which are the most important for you to obtain answers. Remember, you asked for 30 minutes of the individual’s time, so select those questions of most importance that you can cover in 30 minutes. If you don’t get through all of your questions you can ask if the individual has another 10 minutes or so or if you could follow up via email with a few other questions you were not able to cover in the 30 minutes.
  7. It is not necessary to take a resume with you. Do not feel you need to make a resume for the occasion since the purpose of the program is for information only.
  8. Remember to ask for a business card from your contact as you will need to write a thank you note after your visit.

Questions for the Visit

Remember, you are seeking information that will help you understand the realities of working in a particular field. You will be doing the interviewing. Here are some questions you may want to ask
  1. How do you describe your job?
    What do you do on a typical day?
    What kinds of problems do you face?
    What kinds of decisions do you make?
  2. Your time at work
    What are the most important personal satisfactions and dissatisfactions connected with your occupation?
    What part of the job do you consider dull or repetitious?
    What percentage of your time do you devote to your job?
    How do you manage work and personal life
    What social obligations go along with a position in your occupation?
    Are there professional organizations that you are expected to join?
    Are there other things in which you are expected to participate outside of work hours?
    Do you consistently work overtime, on the weekends, or take work home?
    Job Preferences
    What types of jobs did you hold before entering this occupation?
    How did these jobs prepare you for your current position?
    What did you like best and least about your previous jobs?
    Awareness of your job field
    What types of changes are occurring in your occupation?
    Is there a demand for people in this field?
    Do you view this field as a growing one?
    Advancement Opportunities
    How does a person advance in your field?
    If any, what are the advancement opportunities?
    What is the best way to enter this occupation?
    What are the major qualifications for success in this particular occupation?
    How long does it usually take to move from one step to the next in this career path?
    What is the top job you can attain in this field?
    What are the prerequisites for employment in the field?
    What entry level jobs qualify or prepare one for this field?
    What training do companies give to persons entering this field?
    What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field?
    Networking and Information
    Could you suggest other people with whom I could speak in this field or in related fields?
    May I read job descriptions and specifications for some of the positions in this field?
  1. Keep records of your meetings. You may want to evaluate what you have learned and organize the names and addresses of new contacts. These may prove helpful when you actually begin your job search.
  2. Send thank you notes! These should be sent promptly to each person with whom you spoke at any length. A few lines can indicate your appreciation of his or her time and the value you derived from the interview. This courtesy can also help you to be remembered.
  3. If you establish a positive relationship, you may want to re-contact these individuals periodically. Tell them the results of your visits with the people they recommended you contact. If you find articles in newspapers, magazines or journals which might be of interest to an individual whom you have interviewed, send along copies. If you keep in touch with these people and remind them of your interest in their field, they might share with you additional information as they get it.

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