Conducting an Information Interview

Yes–when I was in college and took a Career Preparation course I had to conduct an information interview with a person in a possible career.

I interviewed the Personnel Director of Gerber’s a long-defunct clothing store where I lived. It was in business in the 1980s.

Conducting an information interview is like speed-dating: the the quicker version of doing an internship or working at an actual job.

In a short amount of time you sit down with a person who works at the kind of job you’re interested in getting.

Only you’re not applying for the job. You’re asking this person pertinent questions about the field they’re employed in so that you can better assess whether you might like to have that kind of job or career. Or whether it would be a great next step to get an internship in this field.

How would you go about finding a person to interview? You might have a Facebook friend working in this job. Or simply by posting a request on Facebook you might find a person who is or who knows of someone who is employed at this job.

You can also scroll through your LinkedIn connections–an even better way to find people. You can joined LinkedIn groups in different fields too. Then you can assertively yet politely ask the members of that group if anyone is available for an information interview.

Be cordial and confident in requesting this help. Frame it in terms of talking to them for say 20 minutes or a half hour. This kind of interview should be shorter. It should be at the other person’s discretion if they want to extend your interview any longer.

The best way to frame your request if you ask me is to flatter the person you’re requesting this help from. Having read an article they published or having heard in the news about something they did can be your introduction.

Though hundreds of other people will have read or heard this too you can stand out by remembering to request only 20 minutes to a half hour of their time.

Be positive and proactive in how you request that a person give you an information interview. You might introduce yourself by giving a selling point about yourself that makes you stand out from others who would request this person’s time too.

Remember this dictum: WIIFM: What’s In It For Me. That’s what another person wants to know when you or I come calling with a request for their time, money, expertise or whatever we want to get from them.

I’ll end here with some possible questions to ask when you conduct an information interview:

First: do not ask a question you can find the answer to by Googling it.

A short list of questions:

What do you like and dislike about your particular job?

Were there any courses in college that you took that better prepared you once you got the actual job?

What personality traits or productive habits would help a person succeed in this job or career?

What is it like on a typical day to work at this job?

What kinds of skills, traits, and background would benefit the kind of employer you work for?

Would there be other jobs similar to your job in this field that might be worth exploring? Can you name one or two?

Any parting words of advice or ideas about working at a job like this or in this field?

Then of course:

Thank them for their time.

That’s it: 7 questions.

And remember to send an e-mail or a handwritten letter via postal mail thanking the person for taking the time out of their busy schedule to meet with you. Within 24 hours.

The fact is: a job you read about or get tested out as possibly being suitable might not appeal to you once you’ve heard about it from a person who has that job or career.

It’s called gathering facts then using your intuition to judge the best first course of action.

I’ll end here by saying that sometimes you just have to work at an actual job to rule out or confirm whether you like it. If so keep in mind what I wrote in the prior blog entries.

You can always click on the Careers category in the cloud to read the blog entries on this topic.


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