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Information Interview
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Information Interview

Topics

What is it and Why do it?

  • An information interview is one of the best ways to gather information related to suitable careers and work environments from professionals in the field
  • Information interviewing is one of the most effective networking tools
  • An information interview will give you the awareness you need to choose or refine a career path, learn how to break in and find out if you have what it takes to succeed
  • It is a meeting that you arrange and lead, asking key questions to working professionals in your field
  • It gives you a chance to get the "inside scoop" by actually talking to people in that field
  • An Information Interview can help you decide which companies or work environments are the best fit for you
  • Although an information interview is not a job interview, it can help you cultivate your personal contacts and generate or learn of job leads

How to Prepare for an Information Interview

  • Determine the organization and person/people to contact through networking, company research , and cold calling
  • Do your research; find out about the person and company that you will be visiting
  • Request a meeting by phone, mail, email or in person. State the purpose for your meeting, a bit about yourself, the time you would like to meet and for how long (15-20 minutes is standard)
  • Prepare the questions you want to ask and put them in priority sequence in case you do not get through them all
  • Make sure you know how to get there
  • Call the day before to confirm your appointment time
  • Plan to dress as you would for a job interview with that company

How to Conduct an Information Interview

  • Arrive at least 10 minutes early
  • Introduce yourself and tell your contact a bit about your background and why you are conducting the interview
  • Begin asking your prepared list of questions, being focused, but open to free-flowing conversation
  • Take notes
  • Respect the time limit originally agreed upon
  • Thank the person for their time
  • Send a formal thank you note within 24 hours
  • Analyze and evaluate the interview; how did it go; what did you learn; what will you do differently/the same next time?

Tips

  • Do not mix informational interviewing with job seeking. Employers will grant information interviews when they firmly trust that you will not hit them up for a job. The minute you begin trying to get a job, the employer will feel misled
  • If you discover a job that you do want to apply for during the interview, wait until the informational interview is over. The next day, tell your contact that the informational interview not only confirmed your interest in the field, but also made you aware of a position that you would like to formally apply for
  • Stick to the time frame you agreed to originally (usually 15-20 minutes)
  • Be diplomatic when asking questions about the company someone works for. Do not expect them to give you the "dirt" on their boss and co-workers. Concentrate on asking about things like team vs. independent work environments, deadlines, dress code, office space, hours of work, opportunities for professional development and upward mobility
  • Do not settle for information from just one or two people, a broad information base is important
  • Take note of your reactions on an objective level, but do not ignore your instincts
  • Be prepared; find out about the company and person you will be interviewing before you get there
  • Dress like you would for a job interview
  • Remember that although you are not being interviewed, first impressions are lasting
  • The day before the interview, call to confirm your appointment with the contact person
  • Carry a small notebook and pen, and take notes
  • Be polite and professional
  • Refer to your list of prepared questions; stay on track, but allow for spontaneous discussion
  • Be enthusiastic and show interest
  • Be direct and concise with your questions and answers and do not ramble
  • Have good eye contact and posture
  • Be positive in your remarks, and reflect a good sense of humor
  • Bring a copy of your resume along with you
  • Be sure to send a thank-you card or letter within one day after the information interview
  • Analyze and evaluate the interview

Sample Questions

Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask in an information interview:

About the work environment
  • How would you describe the working atmosphere and the people with whom you work?
  • What can you tell me about the corporate culture?
  • Is most of your work accomplished in teams or individually?
  • What is employee morale like here?
  • What social obligations go along with a job in your occupation?
  • What is the dress code?
  • Describe your supervisor's management style
  • What are the hours of work?
  • Tell me about office space
About the company
  • What is the average salary range for an entry level position in this field?
  • What are the various jobs in this organization?
  • What do you like most about this company?
  • How does your company differ from its competitors?
  • Why do customers choose this company?
  • Are you optimistic about the company's future and your future with the company?
  • How does the company make use of technology for internal communication and outside marketing?
  • What is a typical career path in this organization?
  • What is the average length of time for an employee to stay in the job you hold?
  • Are there incentives or disincentives for staying in the same job?
  • What obligations does your employer place on you outside of the ordinary work week?
  • What are the typical entry-level job titles and functions?
  • Who is the department head or supervisor for this job?
  • Where do you and your supervisor fit into the organizational structure?
  • Why did you decide to work for this company?
About the field
  • What are the opportunities for growth in this area?
  • What do you like most about this field?
  • What do you like least?
  • How do you spend your time on a daily/weekly basis?
  • What types of challenges do you encounter?
  • How can I prepare to enter the field?
  • Any publications I should read or associations you would recommend joining?
  • What personal attributes do you think are essential for success?
  • What skills are required for success in this position?
  • What do you consider to be the key trends in the field right now?
  • What are the various jobs in this field?
  • What sorts of changes are occurring in your occupation?
  • How does a person progress in your field?
  • What work-related values are strongest in this type of work (security, high income, variety, independence)?
  • How is the economy affecting this industry?
  • What can you tell me about the employment outlook in your occupational field?
  • How much demand is there for people in this occupation?
  • What are the major rewards aside from extrinsic rewards such as money, fringe benefits, travel, etc.?
  • From your perspective, what are the problems you see working in this field?
  • How important are grades/GPA for obtaining a job in this field?
  • What entry level jobs are best for learning as much as possible?
  • What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?
  • Can you suggest some ways a student could obtain this necessary experience?
About the person
  1. How did you get started in this field?
  2. What advice would you give to a newcomer?
  3. Would you be able to give me the name of someone else who would be willing to give me information?
  4. Do you know any companies that hire recent graduates?
  5. Do you know of any current openings that would be appropriate for a person with my background?
  6. If you had to do it over, would you stay in the same industry?
  7. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  8. How did you get your job?
  9. What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?
  10. What are the most important personal satisfactions and dissatisfactions connected with your occupation?
  11. What things did you do before you entered this occupation?
  12. Do you find your job exciting or boring? Why?
  13. What were the keys to your career advancement?
  14. How did you get where you are and what are your long-range goals?
  15. How has your job affected your lifestyle?
  16. Does your work relate to any experiences or studies you had in university?
  17. What courses have proved to be the most valuable to you in your work?
  18. How did you prepare for this work?
  19. If you were entering this career today, would you change your preparation in any way to facilitate entry?
  20. What special advice do you have for a student seeking to qualify for this position?
  21. Do you have any special word of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?
  22. How would you assess the experience I've had so far in terms of entering this field?
  23. How did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
  24. [If you feel comfortable and it seems appropriate:] Would you mind taking a look at my resume?

Resources

For more information on-line, check out these links:


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