Informational Interviews

An informational interview is an opportunity to interact with and get an inside view of the experience of someone working in the field and/or company you are interested in. The informational interview is one of the most valuable resources for occupational information and may also assist you in developing rapport with someone who could be a mentor, provide internship or co-op or industry contact.
 
There are several essential steps to conducting an effective informational interview:

• Research potential interviewees and locate key contacts
• Make an appointment
• Prepare a brief explanation based on research as to why you want to conduct an informational interview
• Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewee
• Ensure that you follow-up after the interview
• Evaluate the informational interview and determine if this is an area, you want to pursue

If you employ these and other Helpful Hints you will be well positioned for a productive informational interview.

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Locating Contacts
• Identify jobs and organizations that interest you.
• Compile a list of people you know. Ask for an informational interview or referrals. You probably already know about 200 people, 
   including friends, family members, teachers, and people with whom you have a professional relationship like doctors, bankers, 
   attorneys, business owners, managers and employers. Include membership lists from your church, high school, college alumni, 
   and clubs and/or organizations to which you belong.
• Georgia Tech has a large network of Alumni (http://gtalumni.org/) willing to help you. Join the Georgia Tech group on LinkedIn and 
   Facebook.
• The Georgia Tech Career Fairs and Company Information Sessions provide an excellent opportunity to gather information and meet 
  other students and professionals interested in the same area.
• Contact an organization directly. The person answering the phone may provide you with contact information or refer you to the 
  department of interest.

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Making an Appointment
1. Identify the person you wish to interview or your field of interest. 
2. Contact the person and make the purpose of the contact clear (i.e. length of time you are requesting and why you selected this 
    person, industry or organization). If using a cell phone be sure you have a clear signal and no background noise. Conduct yourself 
    professionally. 
3. Have your calendar, pencil and pad in front of you.

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Examples of what to say during the initial contact: 
Hello, my name is Jane Doe, Georgia Tech Mechanical Engineering major. I am interested in learning more about the field or learning more about your organization.
1. ______________________gave me your name and suggested I contact you to learn more about the mechanical engineering field 
    with ___________organization.
2. I read about your organization in the Atlanta Business Chronicle and see you have a satellite office here but plan to relocate your 
    corporate office to the area in 2012.

3. I am a student at Georgia Tech and enrolled in International Affairs. As part of my career research, I am selecting three areas of 
    interest to research. I selected you because you are one of our most successful International Affairs graduates; work in an area I 
    would like to learn more about; you are an expert in the area of International Economic Development or I read about your organization 
    in the Atlanta Business Chronicle and the impact it is making in international policy.
4. I would like to make an appointment to talk with you about what you do, how you got into the field and what suggestions you might 
    have for someone interested in this area. Can you tell me when would be a good time? I will need approximately twenty minutes for 
    an informational interview. Wait for a response.

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The Informational Interview: What do I say?

It is important to make it clear that you are not looking for a job. You are looking for information to aid you in making career decisions or selecting a program of study for future employment possibilities. The key to the whole process is your enthusiasm and attitude. If you are truly interested in the topic, the person with whom you are talking will usually respond positively.

Give a brief overview of why you are interested in gaining information about this particular industry and how or why were referred to this person. Compliment the person/organization on their reputation, accomplishments etc. Also, note the surroundings (e.g. office conditions, pictures, awards, family photographs, office culture, dress, etc.).

Be prepared to answer questions about yourself:
How did you select this industry?
Why/How, did you select me to speak to?
How were/are your grades in high school/college?
Why do you think you want to do______?

Be ready for the negative to sell:
This is a hard job. This is a fast pace. Not good areas for those who do not want to continue education, travel, work under pressure, face the public, work for peanuts etc. This is a test to see if you are interested or just completing an assignment.

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Informational Interview Questions

Select at least 10-15 questions. Write them down with space for the answers.  Get the exact name and title of the person you are interviewing.

1. How long have you been in this position/field?
2. Tell me about your educational background. 
3. What educational background is most appropriate for this field or current market? 
4. Have the educational requirements changed in the last_____years? 
5. Tell me about any special training your organization has provided or required for this position or in this area.
6. Tell me about your career path, beginning with your first job. 
7. How did you land this position? 
8. When you were in college, did you plan this career path? Was this your long-term career goal?
9. What are the prospects of entering the field today?
10. What program of study or special work experience would be most appropriate to enter this field?
11. What advice would you give someone interested in this field?
12. How are new hires securing employment in this area? 
13. What does your organization look for when recruiting new hires (e.g. GPA, major, internships, Cooperative Education experience) ?
14. How are they recruiting new hires (e.g. campus recruiting, newspapers, job boards, or application process)?
15. What attracted you to this organization?
16. How did you get into this field?
17. Walk me through a typical day.
18. What do you like least/most about your job?
19. How has technology influenced your position?
20. What are the major responsibilities of this job?
21. What are the secondary responsibilities?
22. Tell me about the physical, psychological demands of this job.
23. What is your or your department’s primary goal?
24. Do you travel? What percentage? International and/or domestic? 
25. What kind of impact (positive and negative) does the job have on your lifestyle? 
26. What is the current entry-level salary range? 
27. What seems to be a recurring problem for people in this field?
28. What educational and practical experience suggestions do you have for someone interested in this field?
29. Based on your knowledge of the industry how do you see the labor market changing in the next year?
30. Based on your knowledge what do you suggest I do while completing my studies?
31. Do you know anyone in this career field who has my level of education or my type of experience? How did he or she get the job?
(These questions are useful for people trying to enter a career field when they do not have the typical credentials.)
32. Can you refer me to other people in the field? Organizations? Conferences?
33. What professional organizations and or conferences might provide information about the profession/industry?
34. What professional journals/publications would you suggest I read?
35. Is there anything else you believe I should know about the field that we have not covered?

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Helpful Hints:

1. Dress and act professionally
2. Research the company and the career field before the interview. You will also feel more confident and your questions will be more 
    meaningful. 
3. Drop by the site or request an annual report.
4. Carry a notebook to record information and make notes, but do not attempt to write every word the interviewer speaks.
5. Follow up promptly with a thank you email, note or formal letter. Make sure you ask for a business card from the person you are 
    interviewing to ensure that you spell their name correctly, get the proper title, mail codes and zip code.
6. Consider creating business cards with your contact information. Present your card to the receptionist when you arrive at the 
    informational interview site. Business cards are also helpful should you meet others while on site conducting an informational 
    interview.

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What could possibly go wrong?

If you do not prepare for the informational interview, it will not be successful.

1. Not sure what kind of information you are seeking. Avoid a disaster by doing research before you 
    schedule the appointment.
2. You are not sure how to communicate the kind of information you are seeking. Research again.
3. The person is very busy, distracted and seems to be focused on another issue. Ask if they would like 
     to reschedule. The interviewee will appreciate your consideration. 
4. The person is not in the office or is running late. Again, be gracious; use that positive attitude. A positive 
    attitude and flexibility will gain you points from the organization. 
5. Missed the appointment! Call immediately. Apologize; make it brief. Ask to reschedule.
6. Late for the appointment. Call, apologize and advise the person as to when you will arrive. Ask if they 
    would prefer to reschedule or use the remaining time to conduct the interview. Do not be late for the next meeting.

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Follow-up after the Informational Interview

It is important to send a note within a day or two of conducting the information meeting, for several reasons:

• It is gracious and confirms that you are a person who understands and follows business etiquette.
• You can expand on any points that you think might be important to the person and correct any misunderstandings.
• You provide a reminder (by way of expressing appreciation) of promises the person might have made.
• You bring yourself to the person’s attention at a point when he or she may have begun to forget about you.
• You set the stage for a continuing relationship, which may prove productive down the line.

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Evaluating the Informational Interview

Did I accomplish my goal? 
Did I perform well in the interview? 
Did I prepare adequately for the interview? 
Did I convey my thoughts to the interviewee? 
What do I need to change?
Did the person give me the information I expected?
Is the job what I expected?
Does the job, area, organization interest me more or less?
How did this clarify or redefine my thinking about this job?
Would I qualify for the job? Now? In the future?
Does it match my long-term goals?
Do I understand the job?
Do I now have industry information?
Would I enjoy this job?
Would it fit my interest, values, personality, educational goals and lifestyles?
Do the economic rewards match my style of living?
What was the impression of the professional I interviewed?
Would I enjoy working for this company?
What is the projection for this type of employment?
What future investigation plans do I have?
Did I get any tips on organizations, conferences, networking opportunities?
What are the goals (needs, concerns, problems, issues) of this area of work?
What skills/classes do I have now that would assist me in entering the world of work?
Do I see myself in this field twenty years from now?
 
If you can answer most of these questions, you have gathered some valuable information and developed a clearer picture of the kind of work you want to do. This information will help you make a better decision about what you want to do with your career.  If you did not get the information you expected, change the informational interview questions.