Informational Interviews

One often-overlooked way to learn about a career is the informational interview. Contact someone who works in the field you're interested in and ask her what you want to know about her job. Informational interviews don't have to be purely educational. You can also use them to make contacts and possibly uncover job openings.

Start with people you already have connections with:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Alumni
  • Professors
  • Internship or job supervisors

The Office of Advancement's Alumni Career Network is a database of Georgetown alumni who have volunteered to be sources of information for other hoyas.

Arranging an Informational Interview

Write a letter of introduction. Indicate your interest in your contact's profession and organization and your desire to visit and talk with her about it. Take the initiative to schedule an appointment. Do not expect the person to take care of this for you.

Questions you might ask in an Informational Interview

Preparation
  • How did you choose this career?
  • What types of experience are essential?
  • What types of employment or internships would you recommend?
  • What kinds of entry-level opportunities exist in the field?
  • Is graduate school important for someone in this field?
Present Job
  • Describe a typical work week and a typical day.
  • What skills or talents are most essential for effective job performance?
  • What are the toughest problems you must deal with?
  • What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Lifestyle
  • What obligations does your work place on your personal time?
  • How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, hours of work, vacation time, place of residence?
Career Future Alternatives
  • How rapidly is your field growing?
  • If your work was suddenly eliminated, what different types of work do you think you could do?
Job Hunting Strategies
  • How do people find out about these jobs in your industry? Are they advertised online? By word of mouth? At conferences? In professional publications?
  • What specific aspects of my background should I highlight or sell the most?
  • What organizations would you recommend I pursue?
  • Is there a certain person within this organization whom I should contact first?
  • May I use your name when I contact them?
Nature of Organization
  • What is the size of the organization?
  • What is the organizational structure?
  • What is the average length of time employees stay with the organization?
  • What type of formal or on-the-job training does the organization provide?
  • What new product lines and/or services are being developed?
  • How does this organization compare/differ with it competitors?
  • How would you define the office culture?
Matching/Selling Your Background to a Specific Organization
  • For which entry-level positions would I be best suited?
  • What would be the appropriate way to pursue these positions?
  • Who is the person to whom I address my cover letter?
  • May I use your name when I contact them?
  • What is a reasonable salary range for entry-level positions?

After the Informational Interview

After the informational interview, send a thank you note immediately. E-mail and regular mail are both acceptable.
Keep a record of your interviews. Names, titles, addresses, dates, and topics of discussion will help you remember who told you what, and how to get in touch with your contacts.