An informational interview is a tool for learning about career paths, companies, and creating professional relationships. An informational interview is NOT a time for you to ask for a job or internship. Before professional contacts feel comfortable referring you for an opportunity, they need to know you and understand your interests, skills, and experience.
- Identify someone to interview – Use family and friends, professional organizations, alumni, staff, faculty, or a Career Mentor found on The Elon Alumni Network on LinkedIn. Get correct spelling and pronunciation of contact’s name and be sure of contact’s job title and salutation (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Mx. etc).
- Contact – Call or email to request an appointment. Be sure to state the reason you are contacting him/her/them, how much time you are seeking (30 minutes), and how you learned about his/her/their work. You can also request a telephone interview (if the person does not live nearby). Your phone etiquette and emails should be professional, clear, and concise.
- Scheduling – Be prepared to adjust your schedule. Suggest lunch, coffee break, etc. (When is it convenient for your contact to meet with you?). Professionals seem to prefer you suggesting a few dates and times to meet as it is easier for them to say yes or no.
- Confirm – Be sure you have agreed on the date and place of your meeting. A brief note of confirmation can serve as a helpful reminder to you both.
- Research – Research and read about the career field before the informational interview. Informational interviews should not be a starting point for your career research – they should supplement what you have already learned. Also research your contact’s place of work/company/organization.
- Preparation – Prepare a list of relevant questions. Take an updated copy of your resume with you in case you are asked for it – but be aware that it may be inappropriate to offer it during your meeting. Let the interviewee determine the formality of the conversation.
- Appearance & Arrival – Plan what you will wear; the formality of your dress should match or exceed that of your interviewee’s workplace. Also, bear in mind how long it will take you to get to the meeting place. Arrive 10-15 minutes early; this may give you a little extra interview time.
- Thank You – Ask for a business card before you leave and send a short note thanking the person for his/her/their time. Remember, these contacts can continue to serve as resources throughout your career.
- Stay Connected – Request to connect with your new contact on LinkedIn and occasionally like a post or tag them in one of your posts. Create a Google Alert for their organization to learn about any new clients, initiatives, and awards and send a congratulatory email. Send a happy holidays card or ask if they are attending an upcoming conference – if so, set up a time to grab coffee and catch up.