Informational Interviews

What is an Informational Interview? 

Informational interviews are twenty to sixty minute long meetings in which a potential job seeker seeks advice on their career, the industry, and the corporate culture, among other topics, about a potential future workplace from an employee of that respective company. An informational interview is not a job interview—an informational interview is an important way to expand your network in a specific industry and to gain more nuanced information about a career or organization. You should use this time to listen and learn. Likewise, the employee can see if the job seeker might be ready for their potential pool of candidates.

 

When you reach out to an organization or company, you must communicate three things:

  1. Why you are reaching out: What would you like to learn about them? Try to be brief in your explanation—remember this isn’t an interview or a moment to try to impress through lengthy flattery of their company.
  2. Why are they (the specific person you are reaching out to) the best person for you to learn from. What makes this person unique in their field? What about their career, position, or work intrigues you?
  3. What you are asking for: how much time will you need? Do you want to meet in person, through Skype, or by phone? Offer times to meet, but indicate that you can adjust to their schedule. Ask for twenty to thirty minutes of their time.
  4. Remember, do not take rejection if your contact offers to chat via phone when you requested an in-person meeting. Remember that their schedules are busy and to be grateful for their time.

 

Sample Informational Interview Request

Dear Dr. _____,

I am a current (Master’s Student/PhD Student/Postdoc) at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the History of Art and Visual Culture Department, and I came across your name while browsing the UCSC LinkedIn alumni group. Over the past three years, my research has been focused on the intersection between 19th Century French Painting and queer theory. Although this work has been gratifying, I am now seeking to shift my career into museum administration.

If possible, I would like to learn more about your work in museum programming at the San Jose Museum of Modern Art. The opportunity to learn about your career trajectory and any advice you might be willing to share regarding steps I could start taking now would be greatly appreciated. If you are available for 20-30 minutes in the next month we could meet over coffee (my treat), Skype, or talk by phone.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Rosa Art Student

 

Sample interview questions

Career Exploration

  • What are your major responsibilities?
  • What is the most interesting project you have worked on?
  • What is the most/least rewarding aspect of your job?
  • What is a typical day like, or what does an average work week involve?
  • What are some lifestyle considerations for this career field?

Job Search and Industry Knowledge

  • What do you think this industry will look like in 10 years? How is it changing?
  • How do you see jobs changing in the future?
  • Which professional journals or organizations would you recommend that I research to learn more about this field?
  • Who else do you recommend I talk with, and may I have permission to use your name?

Specific questions that demonstrate your research on the person, field or industry:

  • How did your research background in _____ help you in your job search?
  • How does your research background on _____ come into play, if at all, in your current position? 
  • What are the pros and cons of working on _____ project? 

 

Sample Thank You Email (Follow - up)

After your informational interview, your next step is to send a thank you note via e-mail or a handwritten card. Even if you have decided that you aren't going to pursue a career in their direction, it is important to thank them for their time and advice. 

When following up with an alumni or professional, communicate these three things:

  1. Thank them for their time and any specific resources, tips, or contacts they shared during the meeting. 
  2. Share how you plan to use their advice or help. 
  3. Remember not ask for a job or send your resume unless it was something they offered during your meeting. You are still developing a relationship. Asking for a job is premature. 

 

Sample “Thank you” Letter

Dear Dr. _____,

Thank you for meeting with me last week to learn about your career at the San Jose Museum of Modern Art, and the kinds of projects you have had the opportunity to work on. Our discussion helped me think about my graduate work more broadly, and I took your advice and reached out to your colleague, Dr. _____ at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History – we are meeting next week. Your detailed information concerning the Public Fellows Fellowship program was really helpful, and I plan to apply for the fellowship when it opens next month.

I appreciate your willingness to meet with me, and hope I can have the opportunity to return the favor in the future.

Sincerely,

Rosa Art Student



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