Informational Interviewing Tips

By: Kristen Eckman

One of the best ways to find out what an industry, company, or position is really like is to talk with individuals in the career you are considering. It is also an excellent way to expand your network and prepare for future job searches.

What is an informational interview?

An 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.
Through the process, you will gain a better sense of the real life experiences, challenges and opportunities, specific and perhaps hidden demands, as well as the drawbacks and limitations of the career field.
An informational interview can be in-person, over the phone, or via Skype (or another video platform). You should dress professionally and be prepared with a list of questions.

Informational Interview

How to Informational Interview :

Identify someone to interview

  • Consider family, friends, professors, advisors, alumni, and contacts from LinkedIn already in your network.
  • Get correct spelling and pronunciation of the contact’s name. Know their job title and whether they prefer a salutation.
  • If you are on co-op, consider conducting an informational interview with your supervisor and/or ask them for potential leads.

Contact that person

  • Reach out to the contact via email (see end of page for email templates).
  • State the reason you are reaching out and how you learned about their work.
  • Request a short (20-30 minute) in-person, phone, or Skype interview.
    • If the meeting is in-person, you should go to them.

Schedule the interview

  • Prepare yourself to be flexible. Consider when it is convenient for them to meet with you.
  • Professionals prefer that you suggest a few dates and times to meet. It takes the work away from them and makes the decision easier.

Confirm your appointment

  • Be sure you agree on a date, time, and format for your meeting. A brief note of confirmation will serve as a helpful reminder to you both.

Research the individual and career field

  • Research and read about the career field, the company, and the individual before you meet. This experience should not be a starting point for your career research, but supplement what you have already learned.
  • Your interview should focus on the individual and their experience; it is not a time for you to talk about yourself. Should the interviewee ask, be prepared to share a bit about your experience.

Prepare a list of relevant questions (and your resume)

  • You are the interviewer, so be prepared.
    • Find example questions at end of page.
  •  Bring an up-to-date copy of your resume to share only if the interviewee asks for one.

Be on time for your meeting!

  • Arrive 10-15 early if you are meeting in-person OR be sure your landline/internet connection is properly working. Be ready-to-go 15 minutes before the interview.
  • Be sure you are professionally dressed, equal to or exceeding the level of dress required at the interviewee’s place of work.

Follow-up with a thank you

  •  Always follow-up with a short note thanking the interviewee for their time. They may be a critical part of your network in the future. NOTE: consider how you will continue to stay in contact in the future.

Business Card

Don’t Forget To…

  • Take control of follow-up. Don’t leave the response open to the individual you have contacted. Let them know when you will reach back out, if you haven’t heard from them by the designated time.
  • Mirror the behavior of the professional you are interviewing.
  • Don’t forget your professional introduction. They will inevitably ask you to tell them about yourself at some point, so be ready with that important information.
  • Keep records of your contacts. Consider keeping a journal or creating a spreadsheet to track the names, contact information, and notes from your interviews. It is also helpful to keep the dates of contact and follow-up.
  • Maintain contact with the individuals you interview, but realize that some contacts might not be a good fit for the relationships you are trying to cultivate right now (or perhaps, ever). Label as: forget, hold, keep.
  • Connect on LinkedIn. Remember to always send a personalized message with your invitation.

Sample Questions 

  • Who would you consider the leaders of this industry (companies or individuals)?
  • How do you see this industry changing in the next 5-10 years?
  • What is a typical day/week like for you?
  • What challenges do you face in your position?
  • What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
  • Why did you choose to work at your current company?
  • What was your preparation for work in this field?
  • How did you get into this field? What special skills did you have before entering it?
  • Are there any skills you wished you had before starting the job?
  • What educational preparation would you recommend for a new hire in this field?
  • What experiences/skills do you expect new hires to have for this position?
  • How would you describe the culture of your organization?
  • What values does your company highly regard?
  • How do you know you are successful in what you do?
  • How does your company develop leaders?
  • With your current perspective, what additional skills would you have developed while at school to prepare you for this role?
  • What do you like the most and the least about your job?
  • What are the greatest rewards of your work?
  • What are the greatest frustrations? How do you deal with them?
  • What professional associations are beneficial to this job?
  • Is there anyone else you suggest I contact?
  • May I remain in contact with you? 

Sample Email Language 

Utilize the sample emails below as a guide to contacting your first interviewees.

(No prior connection)

Subject:  WIT student seeking industry knowledge

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,

I am a sophomore at Wentworth Institute of Technology studying Biomedical Engineering. I found your name through the LinkedIn WIT alumni page. As a sophomore seeking my first co-op, I am hoping to learn from current professionals in the field. In viewing your LinkedIn page, I feel like I could gain valuable insight from what you have to share about your experience.

I wondered if we might be able to set a time for a quick 20-30 minute meeting where I could ask you some questions that will help me prepare for the co-op search ahead of me. We could meet in person, or speak over the phone/SKYPE.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Your first and last name

 

(From referral)

Subject: WIT student referred by Professor Christiano

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,

I am a sophomore studying Facilities Planning and Management at Wentworth Institute of Technology.  Professor Christiano encouraged me to contact you. I would like to learn more about the field of Facilities Planning and Management before I begin my co-op search. I am particularly interested to learn about your own experience at (insert name of company).

I hope to meet with you at your convenience. Please email me with times and dates that are compatible with your schedule. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Your first and last name

 

Spring 2019 WITwear Hours: Mon–Wed 4PM–8PM, Thurs 5PM–8 PM, Fri 10AM– 12:30PM

Make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor by calling the front desk at 617 989 4101.

Stepping Out of Your Professional Comfort Zone

By: Abbey Pober

Image of ArrowsCom·fort zone / ˈkəmfərt zōn / noun: a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress.

Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview once, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk… in a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” I can think of no better example of a professional who has taken calculated risks in their career which have resulted in incredible professional learning and growth. Stepping outside your “comfort zone” is a risk that is known to lead to big rewards when done strategically. If your goal is growth in your career, professional development is key to your success.

Why do you want to push yourself to do something outside your professional normal? The reason that motivates you is personal, changes based on where you are in your career, and can range from wanting a promotion, to needing to build new skills. Some of the benefits to challenging yourself professionally include:

  • Building your confidence
  • Strengthening your resume
  • Opening doors to new opportunities
  • Gaining new perspectives that change the way you approach your work
  • Discovering something you love
  • Increasing your resiliency

So, how exactly do you step out of your comfort zone? Again, this looks different for everyone.  You should be looking for an opportunity that will push you to try something new, or that will strengthen a weakness you want to work on.  If your work has you sitting behind a computer all day without much human interaction, consider seeking out speaking engagements, or ask to run part of a meeting for your department/team. Or perhaps you are a person who can talk to a crowd all day but struggles to sit down and focus on tasks for a long time? You could ask to take on an important project that will require you to sit down, plan for, and complete tasks individually rather than in a group setting. Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:

  • Join a professional organization
  • Submit a proposal to present about something you are skilled at/an expert on at a conference
  • Reach out to someone you’ve been meaning to connect with
  • Write a blog/create something to share your expertise
  • Take a class that will challenge you

The important piece to stepping out of your comfort zone is taking the first step and doing it. When choosing what you will do to grow professionally, remember to be reasonable about the time and resources you must commit to it. Want to push yourself this semester? Consider joining a club/organization here at Wentworth, or reach out to your Co-op + Career Advisor to discuss ideas on how you can get involved off campus professionally.

To meet with a Co-op + Career advisor, make an appointment or swing by fall drop-in hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 1:30 – 4:00 PM. Our office is located at 101 Wentworth Hall. Feel free to contact us via email at coopsandcareers@wit.edu, or call us at 617-989-4101.