Whether you’re working or still in college, it can be difficult to explore a variety of career paths. Not everyone has the time or opportunity to shadow an employee or intern for a summer at their dream company. Informational interviews allow you to learn more about a potential career and what others have experienced in the field.

Throughout the informational interview, usually lasting about 30 minutes to an hour, job seekers or college students can ask questions about someone’s career or experience at a company they are interested in, and seek their advice on how to best navigate the recruiting process. Informational interviews provide an opportunity to build your network, and may potentially lead to an internship or a full time job offer in the future. 

This past year, I conducted around 10 informational interviews with alums of my college to learn more about their careers in Marketing. I really enjoyed hearing their individual stories and experiences, and greatly appreciated all of the thoughtful advice I received. The most difficult, but also most important, part of an informational interview can be the preparation. Showing up prepared demonstrates your organization and commitment to use your interviewee’s time wisely. Below are the steps I’ve followed over and over to continually be prepared for any informational interview. 

Step 1: Identify friends, family, or alums of your university who currently work or have experience in these industries

Take a look on LinkedIn and search for connections you have within the industry you are interested in exploring. Search for companies that you’d love to have a job at one day, and connect with one of their employees. Additionally, speak with your career services office and see what alumni work in this industry. They usually can provide you with an email address, which can help increase the likelihood of someone responding to your message. 

If you’re still in college, ask professors in your major to see if any of their past students now work in the industry you’re interested in. Make a list of four or five contacts that you want to request an informational interview with. 

Step 2: Reach out via email or Linkedin

Write a brief message to your contact sharing a little about yourself, your career interests, and why you are interested in connecting with them. This information will help them know if they are able to give you advice based on their past career experience. 

Some things to include:

  • A snippet about your major, college, work experience, and career interests
  • Why you are interested in speaking with them & how you are connected with them
  • A request for a short, informational interview

Your message could look something like this:

Hi [Interviewee’s Name],

I’m a [title] for [company] (or I am a [Class Year] at _______ College/University studying [Area of Study]), and am interested in pursuing a career in (insert industry). Through (insert how you found their information/how you know of them), I found that you work with [Company Name]. I would love to have a brief conversation with you to learn about your experience with [Company Name] and your career plans after you graduated from _______ College/University. Would you be willing to schedule an informational phone call with me? 

Thank you very much for considering my request and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Best Regards,

[Your Name]

Also read: 5 LinkedIn Updates To Make Before You Apply for the Job

Step 3: Formulate a list of questions

Hopefully they’ve accepted your request and you’ve set up a time to chat. Before hopping on the phone, formulate a list of questions that you want to ask during the interview. Having questions prepared demonstrate to your interviewee that you are taking the conversation seriously and took the time to create thoughtful questions. 

It may be helpful to email your questions to the interviewee beforehand so they can think about their responses. Below are some suggestions, but make sure to cater them to your particular interests and potential career. 

  • What does your work look like on a day to day basis?
  • What opportunities are there for growth? 
  • What are your main responsibilities? 
  • How did you navigate your career path post-grad?
  • How did you decide to pursue a career in _____?
  • What skills are important to develop for this career while in college?

Step 4: Create a 30-second elevator pitch

Even though you initiated the informational interview, the person you are connecting with will most likely want to learn about your studies, past experiences, interests, and skills. Prepare a short summary of relevant details to share with your contact in the interview. For example, you may share your past internship experience, or talk about a recent organization you joined on campus.

Step 5: Stay in touch post-interview

After you’ve finished your interview, make sure to thank whoever you interviewed for their time and keep them updated on how their advice has assisted you throughout your internship or job search. Lastly, connect with them on Linkedin if you’re not already.

Also read: How to Write a Thank You or Follow Up Email After an Interview 

Conducting an informational interview is a great way to explore potential careers, practice your networking skills, and expand your professional connections. Reaching out for an informational interview can be daunting, but knowing you’re prepared will ensure that the conversation goes smoothly. Keep us updated on how your next informational interview goes!