One of the best ways to find out about a career or occupation that interests you is to get an inside perspective from someone employed or working in that field. Such an opportunity, obtained through an information interview, often provides the most up-to-date knowledge of the career field/industry and a chance to view the organization's culture in person. Other advantages of an information interview include:
- Learning what workers do daily on the job and their attitudes toward the job and place of employment
- Establishing a network of people to contact later when searching for a job
- Having the opportunity to clarify your skills, interests, strengths/weaknesses, and preferences for work settings
- Checking out perceptions of the career field, employer or industry
- Practicing your interviewing, analytical, and interpersonal skills in a less intense setting
Generally people, even strangers to you, enjoy being asked about their work. Most people, if approached professionally, will agree to spend some time discussing with you their roles and responsibilities. So, don't be afraid to ask. Remember, however, that work environments and jobs may differ from one place to another. Therefore, don't rely on the perspective(s), good or bad, of one person. Several people may need to be interviewed for you to get the best representation of the field/job. The following provides some guidelines for conducting an information interview.
- Determine people to contact. If you know of someone personally or through your family that is doing the kind of work or working for the type of company you might enjoy, by all means, contact them first. Other good referrals for information interviews may come from professors, friends and their parents or even past employers. You may also want to consider contacting LVC alumni through Career Connections.
- Schedule the appointment. Often a letter is the first contact you will make with the contact person. Describe your reason for writing, stating that you are a student considering career options and ask for 30-40 minutes of their time to discuss their job and career path. Be sure they understand this is not a job interview. Mention the name of the person that suggested you contact them as a resource. Follow-up with a phone call about 7-10 days after your letter to schedule an appointment. If schedules are busy, suggest coffee or lunch ? you pay as the host.
- Prepare for the interview. Do some reading about the career field and the employer in advance of your scheduled appointment. Try to determine the information you want and then design questions to help you acquire that information. Some questions might include:
- Would you describe a typical day at your work place? What aspects of your responsibilities do you enjoy the most/least?
- How would you describe your work environment? What brings stress to you and your co-workers? What types of problems do you face?
- What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job?
- What personal characteristics are necessary to be successful in this work?
- What advice would you have for someone interested in doing the type of work you do?
- What other settings do people with your background work in?
- What is your perception of the employment outlook in this field?
- What trends are emerging in the field/job?
- How do people find out about job openings in this field?
- Would you describe how your lifestyle has been impacted by your work?
- How did you get started in this field? Do you wish there were things you had known before getting started? Any surprises and/or disappointments?
- Does your work require long hours? Travel? Dress code?
- Do you belong to any professional organizations? Are their meetings of the association(s) that students may attend?
- What future career plans do you have? What are some of the career paths of others that have been in this type of job?
- Do you know of other persons I might contact that could be helpful to me? May I mention that you referred me to them?
- Act in a professional manner during and following the interview. Dress appropriately for a business setting. Give a firm handshake and make good eye contact. Remember, you are in charge of the appointment, so keep a good handle on the time and keep the conversation focused and on track. Be familiar with the questions you want to ask, but don't feel as though you need to stick to them verbatim. It is possible other more pertinent questions may arise from your discussion. Be courteous of and sensitive to interruptions during your interview.
Take some time following the interview to record your thoughts, observations, and information (don't take notes during the interview). Be sure to write a thank you letter to the person with whom you spoke and to the person who gave you the referral. Keep them abreast of your college career periodically. In the future, when you are ready to begin the employment search, you may wish to contact this individual again and ask for a critique of your resume and other advice they might have for you.