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INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWING

Informational interviewing is the process of gathering career information from people who are already working in occupations, organizations, or geographic locations that interest you. If you are in the process of

  • choosing a major
  • making career decisions
  • starting a job or internship search,

these interviews may help you explore your possibilities. This is also a helpful strategy to use when connecting with an alumni mentor.

  1. HOW TO ASK AND SCHEDULE

Reach out to someone and ask for a meeting to discuss their organization and what they do in their job. Make it clear you are interested in gathering information and advice and that you want to learn from them. You are not asking for a job.


Whether you’re asking someone you know and trust or contacting a complete stranger, sometimes reaching out can be a little uncomfortable. Just remember – many people will feel flattered and be glad to accommodate you!


PRO TIP
  Make sure to offer specific suggested meeting dates and times. It will help the recipient quickly and easily respond to your suggestion rather than putting the responsibility on them to find and offer available meeting times.

 

Resources for Reaching Out

Ginn Connections Mentoring Programs

  • 100+ Women Strong Mentoring
  • Young Alumni Mentoring
  • Mentor for the Moment

LinkedIn  I  Find and message AU alumni or other professionals of interest

CareerShift  I  Find email addresses and phone numbers for company contacts

Handshake  I  Contact other students at Auburn or across the country at other universities

 

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH

Plan open-ended questions that will stimulate discussion and enable both of you to learn about each other. See a list of sample questions on page 2.

Determine the preferred medium for the interview based on your contact’s availability – phone, video platform, or
in-person. Plan ahead what you want to communicate about yourself: interests, goals, traits. Plan a personal introduction or elevator pitch to introduce yourself.

Conduct research by looking at

  • the organization’s social media and web presence
  • the individual’s website biography or LinkedIn profile
  • relevant news articles about the company or industry

 

  1. KEEP IT SHORT

Even if you are getting great information and don’t want the meeting to end, make sure to be respectful of your interviewee’s time. When you have 10 minutes left before your meeting is scheduled to end, mention that you want to be “mindful of time” and note the time you have left. This gives the interviewee the opportunity to extend their interview, or transition to a conclusion. They’ll appreciate your respectfulness and professionalism.

PRO TIP  Wear a watch to check the time rather than checking your phone.

 

  1. FOLLOW UP + CEMENT THE CONNECTION

Remember to send thank-you notes! A few lines thanking them for their time and advice will indicate your appreciation and will keep you in their memory. Be specific about what you learned during the interview.

Make sure to continue communicating so the experience is not limited to a one-time conversation, but grows into
an established contact.

  • Keep your contacts informed about your career-related progress and job search activity.
  • Keep yourself updated about events and activities that might involve or impact your contacts. Research news sources associated with their industry and follow key players and organizations through social media.
  • You will make a good impression by showing you act and communicate in a professional manner. When a job opening comes along, your contact might think of you. While informational interviews sometimes result in opportunities – they don’t always. Make sure you never expect to get a job directly from them.

Preparation

  • Tell me about your background. What did you study and what has been your path to your current role?
  • What credentials or degrees are required for entry into this kind of work?
  • What prior experience is essential?
  • Who has been most influential in your career?

Current Role

  • Can you tell me what a typical day or week looks like?
  • What skills are most essential / do you use most in this job?
  • If you were to leave this role, what factors would contribute to your decision?
  • What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Industry

  • What do you see as the most impactful influences on this industry?
  • What do you see as the greatest needs – now and in the future?
  • What do you anticipate for the trajectory of the industry in the next 3 – 5 or 5-10 years?

 Lifestyle

  • How much flexibility do you have in terms of hours of work, vacation schedule, location / place of residence, and dress?
  • How often do people in your line of work change jobs? 

Job Searching

  • How do people find out about this type of position?
  • How does one move from position to position?
    Do they normally move to another company, or move up within the same organization?
  • If you were to hire someone to work with you today, what factors would be most important in your hiring decision and why?

 Advice

  • How well suited is my background for this type of work?
  • Can you suggest other related fields?
  • What types of experiences, paid employment, or otherwise, would you most strongly recommend?
  • If you were a student and had it to do over again, what would you do differently to prepare for this occupation?

Referral

  • Based on our conversation today, can you suggest other people who I should reach out to for more information?
  • May I have permission to use our name when I contact them?