Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are meetings—in person or over the phone—in which you “interview” a professional in your area of interest. Your primary goal is to learn about this person’s career field and their background and experiences. You can also ask questions about how to become a competitive candidate in this field.

In addition, an informational interview is a great way to expand your network by establishing a good connection with your interviewee. Make sure they know that you are not asking for a job. In fact, it’s a good idea to say outright, “I’m not asking you for a job. I’d just like to learn about what you do.”

Some good reasons to conduct informational interviews:

  • To get an insider’s perspective on a potential career path.
  • To get valuable tips about how to gain entry into this field.
  • To enlarge your circle of expert contacts in the area. (Remember, it’s often who you know that gets you the job.)
  • To learn about a particular organization, how you might fit in and the employer’s challenges and needs.

Informational Interview Questions

Who Should I Contact?

Look for people who work in an organization or setting that appeals to you, or who have built a career in an area of interest to you. To find these individuals, you can:

  • Ask friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, former employers.
  • Reach out to UMBC alumni through Retrievers Connect (our very own networking platform) or via LinkedIn.
  • Contact faculty, staff, and the Career Center.
  • Email or call community service agencies or professional associations.
  • Read articles in newspapers, magazines and journals.
  • Attend meetings for professional associations in your career interest.

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How to Arrange the Interview

  • Call or email to explain your request and obtain an appointment. Use a personal referral, if possible.
  • Explain your request to schedule an appointment for gathering information about their career. Indicate clearly that you are not looking for a job, but conducting research to help you make better career decisions.
  • Schedule a 30 to 60 minute appointment at their convenience.
  • If your intent is to make a personal interview appointment, do not let your phone call turn into the actual interview.  If you ae meeting at your contact’s office, make sure you have clear directions and parking information.
  • Written requests for appointments are most effective if followed up by a telephone inquiry to confirm an appointment time.
  • To learn more about professional correspondences for informational interviews, check out our samples. For more information about professional cover letters, check out Prepare Your Documents.

How to Prepare

  • Research the job, company, and person. Use FOCUS, Vault online career library, LinkedIn or meet with a career specialist.
  • Read about the field and the organization in which the person you’ll be interviewing is working.
  • Know your own interests, skills, values and how they relate to the career field represented by the person you’re interviewing.
  • Have plenty of thoughtful and open-ended questions prepared to spark conversation.
  • Review information on interviews and sample informational interview questions.

Conducting the Informational Interview

  • Dress as if it were an actual job interview, or at least in business-casual attire. First impressions are important.
  • Arrive a few minutes early and be courteous to everyone that you meet.
  • Once inside the organization, look around. What is the work environment like? Observe the dress style, communication patterns, sense of humor, etc. Is this a place where you would want to work?
  • Take the initiative in conducting the interview. Remember, you are interviewing the employer. Ask open-ended questions which promote a discussion.
  • Do not exceed your requested time, unless the other person indicates a willingness to continue the conversation.
  • Ask if there’s anyone else you who might be willing to talk with you at a future date. Ask everyone you meet with for a business card.

Following Up

  • Record the information you obtained for future reference. Reflect on skills and experiences you need to build and brainstorm ways to build upon your strengths.
  • Evaluate your experience. How did you manage in scheduling and conducting the information interview? How sufficiently did you prepare? Did you get the information you were looking for? What information do you still need? Do you need to interview more people in order to get more than one viewpoint?
  • Send a thank-you note within 24 hours. You may decide to follow up now or later with a resume and an application. Compliment people’s knowledge, expertise, helpfulness and/or company, define how each person helped you, let them know which of their contacts you plan to meet and say you will keep them advised of your progress.
  • Make appointments to interview the referrals.


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