Informational Interviewing

Informational Interviewing is a powerful networking tool to learn about career paths and build future relationships. Although an informational interview may lead to a job offer, that is not the primary goal. The focus is to learn about the person’s organization, their role, and their path to that position. The following are helpful steps for a successful informational interview:


How to Set Up an Informational Interview

  1. Identify the Interviewee: Consider family, friends, professors, advisors, Yale alums, and LinkedIn.
  2. Contact: Indicate why you are connecting, request a meeting (Zoom, phone or in-person), and how much time you are seeking (20-30 minutes).
  3. Scheduling: Be prepared to adjust your schedule. Ask when is it convenient for the contact to meet?
  4. Confirm: Once you agree on the date and place of your meeting, send a brief note of confirmation.
  5. Research: Before the meeting, research the field and use the informational interviews to learn more.
  6. Preparation: Prepare questions and bring your resume in case you are asked for it.
  7. Appearance & Arrival: For in-person meetings, wear business casual or business attire depending on the meeting location. Arrive 10-15 minutes early.
  8. Keep Records: Create a spreadsheet to record names, meeting dates, contact information, and notes.
  9. Thank You: Ask for a business card before you leave if in-person. Send a note of thanks after the meeting.

Key Questions to Ask

As you prepare for an informational interview, prepare your questions ahead of time. Keep in mind, this is your opportunity to ask questions and learn.

Job Requirements and Experience

  • How did you get started in this field? Is that typical of most people?
  • Describe a typical workday/week. Are these duties the same for anyone with your job title or level?
  • What skills and personal qualities are most important for success in this job?

Job Environment

  • How would you describe the professional climate in your office? In your industry?
  • What portions of your job involve interaction with coworkers, clients, or vendors?
  • How much evening, weekend, or overtime work is required? What about traveling?
  • Observe the work environment while you are there: the people, their daily routine, dress, office layout, etc.

Benefits and Challenges

  • What are the greatest rewards of your work? The greatest frustrations?
  • On what basis are professionals in your field evaluated? How is success measured?
  • What is the typical starting salary range for new professionals in this field? (Do not ask for their salary).

Growth Opportunities

  • What are the opportunities for advancement in this field? Could you describe a typical promotion path?
  • What are some growth areas in this field and what impact is that likely to have on job opportunities?

Seeking Advice

  • What kinds of education, classes, or specialized training would best prepare me for this field?
  • Are there any professional organizations that would help me to build my network in this field?
  • Where do people in this field typically look for internship and job opportunities?
  • Can you recommend other people for me to talk to?
  • What do you wish you had known about this field when you were just starting out?
  • How do/did you like your major? Would you choose it again now?
  • If you could travel back to your first year of college, what advice would you give (and do you think you would have taken it?
  • What are some valuable takeaways from college of you?
  • How did you choose your field of expertise? What was the process like for you?
  • With the benefit of hindsight, would you do anything differently?
  • If you were my age and thinking of entering this field, what would you recommend I do now as part of that exploration?

Ways to Engage Your Interviewee

Encourage Stories: Stories reveal how people think about the world.  Ask questions that encourage people to recount specific instances and anecdotes.  Say, “tell me about a time when…” and, “say more about that.”

Ask “Why?”: Even when you think you know the answer, ask people why they do or say things.  The answers can surprise you.

Don’t Be Afraid of Silence: If you allow for a pause before asking a follow-up question, a person can reflect on what they said and may reveal something deeper.

Don’t Ask Binary (Yes/No) Questions: Instead, keep your questions open-ended and generative.

 

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