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Guidelines for Information Interviewing

What exactly is an information interview?

An information interview is an interview initiated by you with someone working in an organization or career field which interests you. It is a great way to gain insight into a career, or how to best conduct a job search. It is not a job interview, and your goal should not be to ask for employment. Information interviews allow you to gain realistic information about what you’ve heard or read about careers, to expand your knowledge of the job market, to learn about additional career paths and to build your professional network by talking to individuals working in your career area.

Who might find information interviews helpful?

Just about everyone. However, it is important to clarify what you hope to gain from the interview before initiating contact.

Freshmen And Sophomores:

Information interviews are a valuable tool to help you make career decisions. If you are unsure about your choice of career or major, or want to learn how your major relates to a particular career, speaking with a professional working in a field of interest to you can help you understand more about the day to day tasks of a particular job. You can gather realistic information about and how they relate to your interests, skills, values, and personality characteristics.

Juniors And Seniors:

The more you understand about the job market, your occupational choice, and how to establish a professional network (refer to Networking In Your Job Search), the better off you will be in your job search. Information interviews can help you research industries, organizations, or geographical areas, provide you with feedback on you resume and with job searching tips, as well as help you build confidence for actual job interviews. They can also provide referrals that may ultimately translate into job leads.

How do you find people to interview?

You may think that you don’t have a network, but the truth is-everyone does! Your network may include your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, faculty, classmates and even professionals such as your doctor. Here are some tips to develop and expand your current network to learn more about your major and career.

  • Search for employer contacts using CareerShift's directory containing millions of contact names, titles, and related information organized by industry and location.
  • Research and connect with recruiters, industry experts and potential employers using social media sites including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Connect with the CDC and Alumni Association to find out about Alumni in your field.
  • Attend career fairs, employer information sessions, and networking events.
  • Become active in professional organizations related to your field. Student chapters are a great way to get started. You can also join academic and social organizations on campus.
  • Google web sites specific to your interest area to learn about professional associations, many of which have directories of professionals.
  • Connect with community groups.
  • Attend conferences and workshops to meet people in your career area. Many organizations offer a reduced student membership rate.
  • Ask faculty members if they have the names of professionals and/or recent graduates to contact

How do I make contact with the person I would like to interview?

Your interview may take place over the phone, in person, or via email. If you do not have a direct referral to the person with whom you want to speak, consider writing an email indicating your request for a meeting, then follow up by phone. If you do have a direct referral, you may telephone the person directly indicating how you were referred to them.

Here are some samples of how you might begin your phone conversation:

To schedule a visit:

"Hello, my name is _____, and I found your name from the _____ directory online. Is this a good time for you to talk with me?"
(If yes, great! Continue with an introduction like the one below. If no, when would be a better time?)

To schedule a phone interview:

"Hello, Ms. _____. My name is _____ and I got your name from Dr. _____, faculty member in the _____ department at Buffalo State College. Do you have a few moments to speak with me?"
(If yes, great! Continue with an introduction like the one below. If no, when would be a better time?)

"I am a sophomore at Buffalo State and am considering a career in _____. While I have already done some research about the field, I still have a lot of questions about whether this is the career I want to pursue. I was hoping you could tell me from a moreexperienced perspective what it is like to work as a _____? I have a few questions prepared..."

What else should I know about Information Interviewing before I begin?

  • For a meeting, be on time, professionally dressed, and prepared with research and questions.
  • From the first time you make a connection with a professional for an interview, you should strive to create a professional image. This means that if you contact them via email or letter, all of your correspondence should be complete and grammatically correct.
  • As the interview begins, re-state why you requested the meeting.
  • The purpose of your call or visit is to learn from a professional. Express that this conversation and the information you gather have value for you. Most people enjoy an opportunity to help with information, advice, and guidance.
  • DO NOT at any time ask for a job during an information interview. By asking for a job, you risk embarrassment and ruined credibility.
  • Take responsibility for keeping to the time you mentioned in your phone call/email, usually about thirty minutes. Stay longer only if invited to do so by the person you are interviewing.
  • Before leaving, ask the professional if they know someone else you might speak with about the career field and if you can use their name as the referral source.

What should I do to follow up after my interview?

  • Record accurately the name of the person interviewed, the date of the meeting, what was discussed, and names of additional contacts. Obtaining your contact’s business card could prove useful for this.
  • Write a thank you note after each information interview. Express your appreciation for the assistance you received and mention one or two specifically helpful points. If you are a senior, you many include a copy of your resume and indicate your willingness for it to be circulated as appropriate.(Sample resumes and thank you letters are available on the CDC website).
  • When you make a decision about your career choice, or find a position, share your news with people you have interviewed. They will want to hear what happened to you.

What types of questions should I ask during my interview?

  1. What are the functions of your industry and profession?
    • What is your title? How long have you been in this position?
    • How did you become interested in this field?
    • What are your responsibilities and what skills areparticularly useful to you in fulfilling them?
    • What is a typical “chain of command” in this field?
    • How does your organization compare with others in the field?
  2. What does your work day consist of? Your work year?
    • How many hours a week do you work?
    • Do you work closely with other people?
    • What are some typical problems you face, and decisions you must make?
    • What do you find challenging in your work?
    • Could I have a tour of your organization?
  3. How specialized is your work?
    • How do most people get started in this field?
    • What are some typical college majors in your field?
    • What was your career path from college to the present?
    • Are any degrees or licenses required to enter this field?
    • What academic preparation would you recommend to qualify for this position?
    • How do you keep up with changes occurring in your field?
    • What effect has technology had on this field and your organization?
    • Do you belong to any professional organizations? (Do they have student chapters?)
  4. In your opinion, what is needed for success and fulfillment in this field?
    • How important are internships?
    • Which classes would you recommend I take in the future?
    • Which skills do you consider important for success in this field?
    • What talents and personality traits do you consider to be necessary for this field?
  5. What is the salary range for work in this profession? (Starting? Top Salary? Fringe Benefits?)
  6. Life style considerations.
    • Do you represent your organization or profession at social functions after regular work hours?
    • Are any travel obligations associated with your job?
    • Is relocation a factor in your job?
    • How is this field affected by economic fluctuations?
    • Do the demands of your job allow for work/life balance?
  7. Is this field growing, with opportunities for employment?
    • Are new college graduates hired in this field?
    • Do you have advice as I begin my job search in this field?
    • What kinds of jobs could be used as entrance into this field?
    • Are there other fields in which the same skills might be utilized?
    • What is the reason most people give when they leave this field?
  8. Can you suggest other people who might be valuable as sources of information?
    • May I use your name?

Good luck! We’d love to hear about your information interviewing success!

Career Development Center

Buffalo State College  •  1300 Elmwood Avenue  •  Cleveland Hall 306
Buffalo, New York 14222  •  Phone: (716) 878-5811  •  Fax: (716) 878-3152