Informational Interviewing

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Office of Career Services
Activities Building West
Room 102
180 Riverway
Boston, MA
617-879-2056
careerservices@wheelock.edu

Current Students, use MyWheelock to make an appointment. (click on Appointments to search the Career Services calendar for an open appointment.)

Alumni, contact Director Kelly Graham at kgraham@wheelock.edu or 617-879-2056

What Is an Informational Interview?

An Informational Interview is either a phone call or in-person meeting in which one seeks out the experience and advice of a professional in a field or organization that one wants to learn more about. The questions that you ask will help you learn about organizations, work settings and career paths to help you make an informed decision about your post-graduation plans. Informational interviewing is also helpful as you start assessing your potential fit for jobs or organizations during a job search or career transition.

Informational interviewing is a great way to develop a network. With every contact you meet, you expand your network, and have the potential to gain introductions to additional relevant contacts.

Finding Contacts

Use your network to find professionals with whom you want to connect. Setting up an effective LinkedIn Profile and reaching out to faculty, family and current/previous supervisor are great places to start. Joining the Wheelock College Alumni Association LinkedIn group is also an effective way to find contacts, and learn from the extensive and diverse professional experience of Wheelock alums. Contact Career Services for additional guidance.

Setting Up an Informational Interview

By phone: When reaching out by phone, be sure to speak with a courteous and enthusiastic tone. Briefly mention some information about yourself (a la elevator pitch) then say that you would like to learn more about the contact's experience and/or organization by setting up a time for an informational interview. If you were referred by someone, you should mention their name on the call.

By email: Below is an example of outreach via email.

Subject: Wheelock College Student - Informational Interview Request

Dear Ms. Johnson,

My name is Hawes Riverway and I am pursuing my Bachelor of Social Work at Wheelock College. My field placement advisor, Diane Zipoli, recommended that I reach out to you to learn more about social work in a school setting.

Do you have time to meet in-person or by phone for an informational interview? I would truly appreciate the opportunity to gain professional insights from you.

Sincerely,

Hawes Riverway

In providing background information, there could be the temptation to send your resume. Do not send your resume unless one is requested. This is not a job interview, and even if you could see yourself working there in the future, you do not want to come on too strong.

While you want to be very flexible in when you can meet, make sure the time of day and date do not conflict with any academic and/or professional commitments.

The Meeting

Most informational interviews are 30-60 minutes. Be respectful of your interviewee and be ready to leave after the allotted time, but also leave yourself extra time in case they are able to speak with you longer. Below are some tips on how to prepare for the day itself.

  • Prepare a list of questions you will ask. See below "Types of Questions to Ask" for examples.
  • Be sure to arrive or call on time. If an in-person meeting, determine how much time you will need to travel to and from the site.
  • When you meet your contact, greet them with a firm handshake, and thank them for taking the time to meet with you.
  • Wear professional dress. Business casual attire is acceptable.

Remember, this is an informational interview, NOT a job interview, but still requires professionalism. You will be asking most of the questions, but be prepared to answer some basic questions about your professional background, education, and career interests. Doing so will serve you well to give context to the interviewee about your interests, experiences, and goals going forward.

After the Interview

Be sure to thank the contact for their time at the end of the meeting and in an email that you send within one to two days. See examples of Thank You Notes.

If during the course of the interview it was suggested that you reach out to another contact to learn more, make sure you conduct that outreach within 2 days of the interview. Outreach can be done in a similar manner to your initial informational interview.

Types of Questions to Ask

The questions below serve as a guide for effective informational interviewing. You are encouraged to create more specific questions to the field or individual that will help your career exploration. Before putting together a list of questions, be sure to do thorough research of the organization, career field, and the contact fielding your informational interview. The last thing you want is for someone to say "You can find that information on our website."

Field-specific questions:

  • How do you see this field evolving in the next 3-5 years?
  • What have been some of the biggest challenges in the field, and how have they affected your practice?
  • What have been some of the biggest innovations and policy changes in recent years?
  • Whom do you look up to the most in the field?(mentor)
  • What made you interested in pursuing this career path? What keeps you interested?
  • What types of educational credentials and prior experience are needed to be successful in this field?
  • What type of advice would you give someone starting out in this field?
  • What are typical entry-level positions in this field?
  • What skills/abilities are required in this job/career field?

Organization and contact-specific questions:

  • What are some examples of strategic partners for this organization? (i.e.: City Year, Jump Start, and DCF).
  • I looked at your LinkedIn profile, and am intrigued by [blank]. Tell me more about that.
  • What types of professional development opportunities are you and your organization involved in? (conferences, professional organizations, trainings, certifications, etc.)
  • Describe a typical work day/week/year. (If in education, you can ask what a typical semester, academic year, or summer planning entails too).
  • If you had to name your biggest contribution to this or any other organization what would it be and why?

Next steps question:

  • I've really enjoyed speaking with you today. Based on our conversation are there any other steps you suggest I take or people I talk with to learn more about the field?

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