An informational interview is a conversation with someone working in a field of interest to you, and it’s a great way to do further research into careers you are considering. The goal of the interview is to get firsthand, relevant information about the realities of working in a particular industry or position. Follow the steps below to gain valuable career insights and begin building professional relationships.
Once you’ve determined careers you want to explore, you’ll need to locate professionals working in those fields. Start with people you already know including family, friends, and professors. Remember your friend’s uncle who works in human resources for your favorite video game company? Or your high school chemistry teacher who helped you discover your love of science? These are the perfect people to reach out to for more information on careers in those fields.
After you’ve established who your existing contacts are, you’ll need to identify the gap areas in your network. What kinds of individuals could help you learn more about the careers you’re interested in? The resources below are great places to find professionals to interview:
LinkedIn is the leading social network for job seekers, professionals, and businesses.
Beach Nexus is CSULB’s exclusive online mentoring and professional network that connects alumni, students and community.
If there is a particular company you're interested in, see if their website has a staff directory.
You may consider joining professional associations in your field to connect with those working in the industry.
Informational interviews can take place in person, online, or over the phone. When reaching out, it’s important to make it clear that you are asking for information, not a job.
I’m a sophomore at California State University, Long Beach studying communications, and I’m researching career options in the public relations field. I see that you have extensive experience doing PR in the sports and entertainment industries, and I would love to learn about the work you do. Would it be possible to schedule 20-30 minutes with you to ask some questions and hear your perspective on the PR field?
When someone agrees to meet with you for an informational interview, it’s important that you prepare questions in advance.
- How did you get into this field?
- What is a typical day like at your job?
- What do you like about your job?
- What do you dislike about your job?
- What skills do you need to be successful in this industry?
- What current issues and trends in the field should I be aware of?
- What are some common career paths in this field?
- How do most people get into this field?
- What are common entry-level jobs?
- What steps would you recommend I take to prepare to enter this field?
- What are the most effective strategies for seeking a position in this field?
- Can you suggest anyone else I could contact for additional information?
Though an informational interview is more of a conversation than a traditional job interview, you will want to make a good impression.
- Dress neatly and appropriately.
- Arrive on time.
- Have a notepad available to write down important information you learn.
- Begin the meeting by thanking them for their time.
- Restate that your objective is to get information and advice, not a job.
- Respect the person’s time by limiting your questions to the agreed-upon timeframe for the meeting.
Following the meeting, send a thank you email within 24-48 hours.
Sample Thank-You Email:
Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me yesterday! I really enjoyed learning about your work as an ASL interpreter, and I appreciate your willingness to answer my many questions. The insights and advice you shared were incredibly valuable, and I hope that we can stay in touch.
If you haven’t already, be sure to connect on LinkedIn and/or CSULB's Beach Nexus network with the person you interviewed. You can stay in touch by sending an occasional message to inform them of major life or career updates, such as graduating from CSULB or applying for a job with their company.