What is an informational interview?
It’s a process of talking to someone who is in a job, career field, or organization that interests you. It provides an opportunity to gather information that you can’t find online or through other resources. It might sound daunting to reach out to professionals and ask questions, but trust us – there is no substitute for talking one-on-one with someone who actually has the job.
How do I find someone?
- Talk to people in your life: Ask all your friends, classmates, family members, advisors, neighbors, and acquaintances if they know a person employed in the career you’re researching. When you contact your prospective interviewee, mention that you were referred by a mutual friend.
- PCC instructors: Check the PCC schedule or catalog to find courses in a field you’re interested in (ie: marketing, graphic design, interior design, engineering, etc.). Ask teachers in the field to recommend colleagues or past students.
- Use social media: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Meetup are all tools you can use to search for connections within your chosen occupation, organization, and/or industry.
- Business websites: Find employee profiles on company websites and contact them directly.
- Professional associations: Oregon CIS lists associations for almost every occupation; local chapters in particular can be a great resource.
What do I say?
- Hello, my name is blank______________. I am a student at Portland Community College, and I’m doing career research to help figure out my educational path. I’m really interested in the field of blank______________, and was wondering whether you might be available to talk with me for 15 or 20 minutes about your work?
- Emphasize that you’re looking for information – not asking for a job.
Before the interview
- Learn more about the career in general so you understand the basics before meeting the person; be prepared so you don’t waste their time – or yours.
- Prepare and review the questions you want to ask. During the interview
- Be on time, dress appropriately, ask your most important questions first, and take notes.
- Be mindful of the time, however, some people may have a lot to say so be prepared to stay extra if needed.
- Send a thank-you note, via email or regular mail, preferably within a few days. Don’t skip this step – this person may turn into a valuable contact!
- Stay in touch, especially if the person expressed interest in your progress.
- If given a referral that turns out to be helpful, drop a note to the person who made the referral. People appreciate knowing when they’ve been helpful.
- About job duties:
- What do you do during a typical day?
- What abilities and skills are required to do well in your position?
- What are other related job titles for what you do?
- What is your most significant accomplishment this past year?
- About job satisfaction:
- What do you like most about your job?
- What do you find challenging?
- What do you not like about your job?
- What attracted you to this type of work?
- About preparation:
- What did you do to prepare for this occupation (work, education, internships)?
- Is your job different from how you first thought it would be?
- Were there any surprises?
- If you were starting again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
- About competition:
- What changes are occurring in your occupation?
- How competitive is it to get a job in your field?
- About networking:
- How do you advance in your field?
- Do you belong to any professional associations for your field and if so, which ones?
- Why do people leave this occupation?
- What other local companies hire in this occupation?
- What other advice do you have for a person considering this career?
- Do you know anyone else in this field who might be willing to talk with me, too?