Informational Interviews

It may seem a little intimidating to ask a stranger for a favor but remember that most people enjoy talking about themselves, ideas/opinions and enjoy helping others. That’s just human nature!

For more information and a complete handout regarding informational interviews, click here

Click on the boxes below to expand them and read answers.

What is an informational interview

In an informational interview, you ask a professional about their real-life experiences, challenges and opportunities, benefits and demands, and opportunities and limitations of a field you're interested in. Learning firsthand from people in careers you're considering can be one of your most valuable resources in finding out what working in an industry, company, or position is really like! What are the benefits of informational interviewing?
  • Gain firsthand, current information from professional in the field(s) you're considering
  • Clarify what jobs are a good fit for you and which graduate programs are required (if any) before you commit yourself
  • Learn about salary ranges, typical career paths, how specific organizations find new employees, and which companies are hiring
  • Build support for your job search by expanding your network of people who can give you insider advice and provide you with non-advertised job leads

How to ask for an informational interview

"Hello, my name is _______ and I am a sophomore at UC Santa Cruz majoring in Global Economics. I received your name through ________ (name of contact) who indicated that you would be a great person to talk to about careers in ________. Would you be willing to do a brief informational interview with me about your career path? I am not trying to set up a job interview, but instead want to ask you about your career field. Could we set a time, at your convenience, to talk to you in person or on the phone for 10-15 minutes? This would be very helpful to me as I seek to explore and develop my career and professional goals."

What kind of questions to ask in the interview

About the individual and job functions

How did you get into this type of work?

What is a typical day on the job like for you?

What would you enjoy most/least about your current work?

How did your education prepare you for your position?

What qualifications do I need to gain an entry-level position in your career field?

What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field?

About the Organization

Why did you choose this organization? What do you like/dislike about it?

What is the employment outlook for your organization at this time?

What are the characteristics and skills of successful people in this organization?

What are other opportunities in the organization should I look into?

About the Field

What changes do you see occurring in this field over the next few years?

Are there conferences or seminars that might be useful for newcomers to attend?

Do you belong to or know of any professional organizations that you recommend I join as a student?

What other organizations hire people in this career field?

What are good ways to learn more about prospective employers?

About your Marketability

How would employers view my background and experiences?

Is my resume appropriate for the jobs I’ve expressed interest in?

How could I improve my marketability in this field?

ALWAYS ask…

Could you provide me with the names of two or three other people you know who would be willing to provide me with additional information about this type of work?

May I use your name as an introduction if I contact them?

Steps for an informational interview

1. Develop your contact list. Identify professionals in your career field of interest through related professional organizations, people you already know, or alumni through the UCSC Alumni LinkedIn Group.

2. Ask for the interview. Briefly introduce yourself by calling or emailing the professional you'd like to interview and explain to them that you would like to speak for 10-15 minutes to discuss their career path, job responsibilities, and your questions for them. For more detailed information on how to ask for an informational interview, see our Informational Interview Guide at the Career Center.

3. Prepare in advance. Research the company and the individual, prepare insightful questions for them in advance, and be prepared to talk about your interest in their field of work and your strengths and skills.

4. Conduct an effective meeting. Get as much information as you can in your short time together and take thorough notes during the interview. Describe your interests in a clear, concise manner.

5. Follow up. Send the professional a brief thank you email promptly right after your informational interview - thoughtful people tend to be remembered.

6. Keep track of your contacts. Keep their contact information for future reference - the network you build will be valuable throughout your professional life!

If you have specific questions or concerns, contact an adviser via email or phone.