Informational Interviews

Put simply, the purpose of an informational interview is to gather information about a career or field you are interested in from a person working in that field, career path, or industry.

What is an informational interview?

In an informational interview you are asking specific questions to learn more about:

  • how to enter a career path or a field,
  • what skills are required,
  • the nature of the job or industry,
  • norms within that area or career path,
  • if there are particular styles or formats for application materials,
  • where to find job listings

In informational interviews,  be respectful and prepared - show an interest in the field or industry while specific asking questions so you can determine if that particular career path is a good fit for you. For instance, you might ask if many or most of the positions in the field or career area in question require 50% or more time traveling? Is this attractive or a deal-breaker for you? Are most of the opportunities for a particular job located in New York City and Washington D.C.? Are these places you are comfortable living? 

While some find the concept of informational interviewing to be odd or abnormal, outside of academia it is a very normal practice. It is not unlike doing participant interviews for academic research, the only difference is that the subject you are trying to learn more about is a career area that interests you. 

Why are informational interviews important?

Informational interviewing is important for a number of reasons. First, it is a good way to network that is often more personal and effective than attending larger networking events. Second, you can gain information about the field and application process or typical entry points into that field that you would otherwise not know about. For example, positions with international relief agencies are often very difficult to get and very competitive - often one of the best ways into this particular field is to volunteer or intern for an organization. Additionally, there might be skills or experience that might not be explicitly included in a job position description, but can make you a more attractive candidate. 

At this point you might be asking yourself:  How does one get an informational interview? What should I do or ask? Great questions! We have the answers - below you will also find resources both online and on campus to help you find and connect with people, how to prepare for informational interviews, what types of questions to ask, and more best practices.

Informational Interviews Tips, Sample Questions, and Best Practices