Scoping out your career path – the informational interview

By Guest writer Susan Bryant, Ivy CARES Resource and Employment Coach

An informational interview is a way to learn about a position, a field, or a company that interests you. Unlike a regular job interview, the goal is not to secure employment with the organization, but simply to become more knowledgeable about a line of work or career path. You can ask someone for an informational interview by saying, “I’m really interested in learning about what someone in your position does. Would you have some time to discuss your role and responsibilities?”

Because you are not directly asking for a job, oftentimes people are more willing to share their time and experience with you. The great thing about an informational interview is that you are making a professional connection with someone in your field. This could pay off later when this person learns of new career opportunities and remembers your interest. Here are a few questions to ask in an informational interview:

  • How did you get started in this line of work?
  • What qualifications and experience did you need?
  • What are the main responsibilities in this job?
  • What is a typical day like for you?
  • What are the things you like most about the job?
  • Are there things you dislike about the job?
  • What have you found to be the biggest challenges in your work?
  • What have you found to be the most significant rewards in your work?
  • What are the necessary requirements for an entry level position in this industry?
  • What are the career path options in this industry/organization?
  • Where do you think this industry/career is going in the next couple of years?
  • Which companies or organizations do you consider to be the leaders in this field?
  • What do you think are the available career options for someone with my qualifications in this industry?
  • Is there anything else you think I should know about this work?
  • Are there related fields that you would suggest I look into?
  • Is there anyone else you would recommend that I talk to?
  • May I contact you again if I have further questions?

At the end of your informational interview be sure to thank the person you spoke with for their willingness to meet with you and share their experience. Send an email reiterating this same message. Following up in this way leaves the interviewer with a lasting professional image of you – which might just lead to a job opportunity for you down the road.

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