Informational Interview

What is an Informational Interview?

What if you are not sure about your career goals…or you feel that you lack relevant experience and knowledge to get the career position you want. One of the best ways to find out what an industry, company or position is really like is to talk with people in careers you are considering. No one else can give you a better sense of the real life experiences, the challenges and opportunities, the specific and perhaps hidden demands as well as the drawbacks and limitations of the career field.

What is the History Behind the Information Interview ?

The concept of 'informational interviewing' was conceived by Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the best-selling career handbook, What Color Is Your Parachute? Bolles describes the process as "trying on jobs to see if they fit you." He notes that most people choose a career path without taking the time to speak with professionals in their field of interest. As a result, they find themselves in careers that are not a true match for their skills, values, interests, and abilities.

What Exactly is the Information Interview?

The informational interview is a highly focused information gathering session with a networking contact designed to help you choose or refine your career path by giving you the “insider" point of view.

What are the Benefits of Conducting the Information Interview?

The Information Interview Allows You to:

  • Gather valuable information from industry professionals on career planning and job search strategies.
  • Discover the “realities” of a particular career field and what is it really like to work in a given industry.
  • Evaluate whether the career is compatible with your skills, interests, lifestyle and goals.
  • Receive specific suggestions on how and where to acquire the experience and knowledge required.
  • Develop confidence in interviewing with professionals by discussing your interests and goals.
  • Gain access to the hidden job market. Over 80% of quality jobs are secured through networking.
  • Expand your network of contacts in your field of interest for future opportunities
  • Gain referrals to other professionals in the same field for additional networking.

What are some of the subject areas that can be discussed about the industry/organization during the information interview?

  • Work Environment
  • Ideal Skill Set/Qualifications
  • Industry Trends
  • Career Path of Interviewee
  • Lifestyle
  • Typical Compensation
  • Challenges/Rewards
  • Career Ladder of Field

Are Information Interviews Only for Students Ready to Graduate?

Not at all---information interviews are appropriate for first year students through alumni. If you are in the process of choosing an academic major, making career choices, beginning a job search, or transitioning to a different career, the information interview can be an excellent tool to explore your options and increase your knowledge.

How Does the Information Interview Work?

The information interview works best if it is done in person, face-to-face in the setting that you are interested in working (i.e. hospital, investment bank, consulting or non-profit organization etc.) However, it can also be done by telephone, e-mail chat group, or on the internet.

How Do I Find the Contacts for the Information Interview?

Usually you will talk with a person you don’t know personally but who has been referred to you. Ask friends, family members, colleagues, faculty members, and former employers for a referral to a candidate for an information interview. This may sound like a scary prospect but most people actually enjoy talking about their jobs and giving career advice. Also, check out the UCLA Student Alumni Association, which has a database of over 4,500 alumni who are waiting to help UCLA students!

Can I Ask for a Job During an Information interview?

No. The information interview is not a scheme or trick to get you into the door to talk to a potential employer about a job (although it certainly opens doors to specific job opportunities down the road). IT IS ABSOLUTELY TABOO TO ASK FOR A JOB DURING AN INFORMATION INTERVIEW.

How Can I Best Prepare for the Informational Interview?

Preparation is the key to success. In advance of the meeting, you should prepare as you would for a traditional interview:

  • Read about the career area and organization in which the person you are interviewing is affiliated.
  • Review materials in the Career Resources Library for background information on the industry/career field.
  • Check the company/organization’s internet site.
  • Know your own interests, skills, values and how they relate to the career field represented by the person you are interviewing.
  • Prepare an Opening Statement that gives a brief profile of who you are and your interest in the field.
  • Develop a number of well thought out, open-ended questions to stimulate a meaningful discussion.
  • If you meet face-to-face, dress appropriately in interview attire. You want to give a good first impression and look like someone who could be an asset to the profession.

How Do I Set Up the Information Interview?

An information interview can be obtained through personal referral, written request, or cold-call telephone contact. Many career counselors recommend a written request followed by a phone call, feeling you have a better chance for a favorable response. The advantage is that the letter serves as a preliminary introduction and helps explain your purpose. See our link on setting up an informational interview for additional help.

How Do I Follow Up with My Contacts?

Be sure to send a formal thank you letter to the person you interviewed. A nice touch is to share with them the results of any project or suggestion discussed during the interview, and inform them what steps you have taken to apply the advice you received.

Report back to anyone who gave you a lead. This is not only common courtesy, it helps keep others interested and involved in your career plans and job search.

Continue to maintain contact with the person you interviewed. Keep in touch by sending an occasional article on a business related topic that you think would be of interest or a quick note updating them on your current activities.

Later on, if you decide to pursue the career field, you may wish to send out a “feeler” letter along with your progress report by stating, “If you hear of any job possibilities, I am enclosing my resume and would appreciate hearing from you.”