Informational Interview

An informational interview is basically a fact-finding mission. It is a great method to use when exploring career options

Whether you are a student deciding on a college major/vocational tract, a spouse seeking to learn more about employment opportunities, or a military member conducting advance planning for separation or retirement, you can use this tool to gather information

To save your time and money - on television, a crime scene investigator (CSI) looks like a glamorous career, but in reality it can take months to get the results from the tests they complete in an hour on TV. Talking to an actual CSI would give an individual a much better picture of the patience and attention to detail that the job really takes, as well as the math and science skills required. We often spend countless hours and dollars to obtain a degree that has become obsolete or prepared us for a job that holds no appeal once we're in it

To build your network - if you started making cold calls to companies to see if they were accepting applications, most would tell you that they will advertise when they need someone. If you tell someone in that same company that you are researching different careers so you can prepare for a similar job, most would be flattered and gladly give you some of their time

The first step is to ask friends, co-workers, or teachers/professors if they know someone in the career field in which you are interested. If you can't find someone that way, call the human resources department at a company and see if they can recommend someone. Once you've got a name and number, call and ask for a 15 minute appointment to interview them about their job. Remember that they are busy and are doing you a favor by seeing you

Arrive at least ten minutes early and be prepared. You should have a list of questions that you can address within the amount of time you requested. If you are actively seeking employment, be sure to take a copy of your resume, in case you are asked for it. While this is an informal meeting, be sure to dress in business attire

Sample Questions (if the job is specialized, it is a good idea to customize some of your questions)

  • What is your title? What are other commonly used titles for your position?
  • Please describe a typical work day
  • What do you like best about your job? What is your greatest challenge at work?
  • What types of education/training are necessary to do this job? Is a degree necessary or are there certificates that are just as valuable?
  • What types of specialized experience does it take to be competitive for a job like this?
  • What are the important "key words" or "buzz words" to include in a resume or cover letter when job hunting in the field?
  • What are the main or most important personal characteristics for success in the field?
  • What are the different salary ranges? (while salary should not be discussed in a traditional interview, it is ok in this setting)
  • Is this a rapidly growing field? Is it possible to predict future needs for workers in this field?
  • Where should I look to find job listings for this type of job?
  • What do you know now that might have been helpful to know when you were starting in this industry?

Wrap Up
At the end of the interview, ask if he or she knows anyone else that might provide further information. If you make a connection with the person, they might ask for your resume. While his or her company might not be hiring, they may know someone else that is

Be sure to send a thank you card within a day or two of the interview. This will relay your appreciation for the person's time and also demonstrate your ability to follow through. If appropriate, continue the professional relationship


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