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San Diego State University

Career Services

Informational Interviews

An informational interview is one of the most effective ways to meet people in a professional field of your interest. It gives you the opportunity to gather information whether you are still undecided about your major, or in the first stages of your job search. Informational interviews are arranged with professionals who can provide the information directly, or who can refer you to others.

Follow these 6 steps to an informational interview:

Step 1: Assess your interests

Your first step is to identify an occupation / industry you wish to learn more about. Assess your own interests, skills, values, and know how they relate to the career field represented by any person(s) you plan to interview. Review these Assessment Tools to get started.

Step 2: Gather information and learn all you can

Your next step is to read all you can about your areas of interest. This should be done prior to any interview. Check print materials found in the Career Resource Room for advice, industry guides, articles, and company websites. Then decide what additional information you need to obtain about the occupation / industry.

Step 3: Prepare a list of questions

Questions should include information on background, work environment, problems, lifestyle, rewards, salary, promotional potential, industry, advice, demands, hiring decisions, and job market. Make sure your questions are well thought out, and prepare to deliver them in a professional manner. Examples:

  •  What was your college major, and how did it prepare you for this position?
  • How does your position fit within the organization / industry / career field?
  • What do you like most and least about this position?
  • What is the profile of the person most recently hired at my level? How could I prepare for a similar career?
  • What are some of the current issues related to this field?
  • What trade journals, magazines, or professional associations would be helpful to my professional development?

Step 4: Identify potential people to interview

Identifying the right people starts with a list of people you already know: friends, neighbors, relatives, fellow students, faculty, professional associations, present or former coworkers and supervisors. Also, use your career and job fairs to gather business cards and talk with representatives. They will be interested in you and will possibly contact you with someoe who would be willing to do an informational interview.

Step 5: Making contact

To make contact, you should:

  • Send a letter or email requesting a brief informational interview (15 to 20 minutes). Clearly indicate the purpose of the meeting and communicate that there will be no job expectation.
  • Follow this up with a telephone call to confirm, schedule the appointment, and determine where you are to meet. Make sure the meeting will take place in a professional setting during daytime hours.

Remember that the best way to obtain an informational interview is by being referred from one professional to another. If you ask, this person may even make the appointment for you.

Step 6: The interview

When conducting your interview, remember it is always best to:

  • Dress to impress (dress conservatively)
  • Arrive early (by at least 15 minutes)
  • Be polite to everyone you meet

Ask your prepared questions, taking notes of important ideas; engage with the professional in a friendly, interested, mature manner. The whole idea is for you to shine, make a good impression, and get referrals to other professionals. When you do get referrals to others, ask permission to use your interviewee's when contacting those referred.

Following the informational interview:

  • Be sure to note the information you have gathered.  Analyze the information to adjust your job search, resumé, and career objective as necessary. 
  • Within 2 days, send a thank you note (PDF; download Adobe Acrobat Reader, if needed) to the interviewee and to each person who took the time to help you, including anyone who referred you to a new contact.

Don't be afraid to ask

Don't be afraid to ask for an informational interview.

Remember that most people enjoy sharing information about themselves and their jobs and — particularly — love giving advice. Professionals remember what it's like to be in the beginning stages of choosing a major, occupation, or job search.

They all started out just like you!