Informational Interviews

What is an informational interview?

An Informational Interview is a brief meeting with someone who is in a career or industry that you are considering.   It is a chance to get first-hand information and advice that is specific to your interests and concerns.  In addition to gaining knowledge about the field, you will meet professionals and begin to establish a network of contacts.

How long is the interview?

Usually about 20 – 30 minutes.

Can I do this by phone, or do I meet the person face-to-face?

Though an in-person meeting is preferable, the answer to this depends on what is most convenient for the person you are interviewing.  They are doing you a favor so you must defer to their schedule. Phone interviews are absolutely acceptable, as are Skype or other digital interview options.

How do I find someone to speak to?

Once you have decided which occupations you would like to know more about, start asking people you already know for referrals: family, friends, teachers, classmates, career center, alumni and professional associations.  A good place to start is UCLA ONE, UCLA’s new professional online network. Go to uclaone.com to create an account and search for alumni who are “willing to help” by talking about their careers.

How do I set up the interview?

Let them know how you learned about them and that you are interested in career information, not a job. Ask them for 30 minutes of their time, either in person or on the phone, and work with their schedule to set the appointment.

How do I prepare for the interview?

  1. Review their LinkedIn and/or company website
  2. Practice one short sentence to introduce yourself and your career areas of interest (a “trampoline pitch”)
  3. Have at least 3 questions ready to ask (see below for ideas to get you started)
  4. Have your resume ready to send, just in case it is requested

What do I wear?

Dress professionally as you would for any interview.

Should I send a thank you?

Yes. A handwritten thank you will be remembered most favorably, and you can also send an email thank you.

Can I ask for a job?

No.  Opportunities may arise from this meeting, but it is purely informational

Potential Questions to Ask

Questions about the job

  • What are the entry-level jobs in this field/organization?
  • What do you do as a _____?
  • What kinds of decisions do you make? What kinds of problems do you deal with?
  • What are your major responsibilities?
  • How do you spend a typical day/week? What kinds of tasks do you do on a typical day/week?
  • What are the major responsibilities of these positions?
  • What skills and education are needed to enter this field?
  • Do you spend most of your time at your desk? Moving around the company? Outside?
  • What are the positive/negative aspects of working in this field?
  • What are some of the more difficult or frustrating parts of this career?
  • I really like doing ________. Do you have an opportunity to do that type of work in this career?
  • Do you usually work independently or as part of a team?
  • What kinds of entry-level jobs or internships do you think are good training ground?
  • What types of advancement opportunities are available for an entry-level worker in this career?
  • I read that________ is an issue in this occupation. Have you found that to be true?

Questions about the industry

  • Is this career/industry changing? How?
  • What are the “hot issues” in this field?
  • What trends and developments do you see affecting career opportunities?
  • What books (or websites) do you recommend I review to learn more about this industry?

Questions about the professional

  • Can you describe your own career path? Is this typical, and if not, what might a beginner expect today?
  • Are you active in any professional organizations? Are students invited to attend/join?
  • What do you like best about this job? What excites you most about this job?
  • What do you find most/least satisfying about your job?
  • What did you study in college?  Do you feel that your major helped you prepare for this field?

Questions about working conditions

  • What kind of hours do you work? Is your schedule flexible or set?
  • Are those hours typical for most jobs in this occupation, or do some types of jobs have different hours?
  • Does this career include or require travel?
  • Do you have any health concerns associated with your career?
  • How does this career affect your lifestyle?

Questions about training

  • How did you find this job?
  • How did you prepare for this career?
  • Do you have any advice on how people interested in this career should prepare?
  • What type of entry-level job offers the most learning opportunities?
  • Do you know anyone in this field who has my level of education/ type of experience? How did he/she get the job?
  • Can you give me advice on how to break into this field?

Questions about other careers and contacts

  • Do you know of any similar careers that also use _______ or involve _______?
  • I know that people in this career specialize in ______and ______. Do you know of any other specialties?
  • I think I really like this career. But do you know of similar jobs that do not have this______ characteristic?
  • Can you suggest anyone else I could ask for information? May I tell them that you have referred me?