Idaho Commons Room 334
P.O. Box 442534
Moscow, ID 83844-2534
An information interview is an appointment that you schedule with a person in a specific career or who works for a specific company. The purpose of this interview is to gain current, regional, and/or specialized information from an "insider" point of view. If you are in the process of choosing an academic major, making career choices, changing careers, or beginning a job hunt, then information interviews may help you explore your possibilities. Unlike job interviews, information interviews do not require that you sell yourself to an employer and do not depend on existing job vacancies. Information interviews are arranged with those who can provide information directly or with those who can refer you to persons with information.
· Get valuable information for your job hunting and career planning (e.g. choosing an academic major or career). It's a good way to "reality check" what you've read, heard, and think.
· Learn about an organization, how you might fit in, and what problems or needs the employer has. Knowing these things will help you slant your qualifications towards the needs of the organization.
· Gain experience and self-confidence in interviewing with professionals through discussing yourself and your career interests.
· Enlarge your circle of "expert" contacts in the area. REMEMBER, IT IS WHO KNOWS YOU (OR GETS TO KNOW YOU) THAT GETS YOU A JOB. It's never too early to establish contacts.
· Ask for referrals (e.g., "Can you suggest other people that I might talk to about jobs in this field?")
Identifying a potential interviewee often stops people from doing information interviews. ("I don't know anyone in this field..."). Look for people who:
· Share a common academic major or interest, enthusiasm, or involvement in some activity or lifestyle that appeals to you
· Work in a setting you like (e.g., hospitals, textile company, colleges, airlines)
· Work in careers you're interested in (e.g. counseling psychologist, market researcher, public relations)
· Work in a specific job or organization (e.g., counseling psychologist at a university counseling center, consumer education representative at a utility company, market researcher at IBM).
· Ask friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, former employers...anyone you know for an information interview or for a referral.
· Call community service agencies, trade/professional organizations (e.g., women's organizations, Chamber of Commerce, Information Management Association) or review their websites.
· Scan the Yellow Pages, newspapers, magazines, and journals.
· Attend meetings (local, state, regional) for professional associations in your career interest field(s).
HOW SHOULD I PREPARE?
People are generally interested in talking about what they do and how they do it. But you don't want to waste their time or your time -- be prepared! Know exactly what kinds of information you want by having a list of questions written out. Generally, don't ask something routine that is readily available elsewhere. Do your research; read the company’s website along with any websites with information about that industry, career field or person you will be interviewing. Know your interests, skills, values and how they relate to the career field of the person you're interviewing.
WHAT QUESTIONS COULD I ASK DURING THE INFORMATION INTERVIEW?
1. (Background) Tell me how you got started in this field. What was your education? What educational background or experience might be helpful in entering this field?
2. (Work Environment) What is it like to work in this field? What are the daily duties of your job? What are the working conditions? What skills/abilities are used most in this line of work?
3. (Problems) What are the toughest problems you deal with? What problems does the organization as a whole have? What is being done to solve these problems?
4. (Work-Life Balance) What impact does your job have on your life outside work? How much flexibility do you have in terms of work hours and vacation?
5. (Rewards) What do you find rewarding about this line of work?
6. (Salary) What salary level would a new person start at? What are the fringe benefits and other forms of compensation? (bonuses, commissions, securities).
7. (Potential) Where do you see yourself going in a few years? What are your long-term goals?
8. (Promotion) Is turnover high? How does one advance from position to position? Do people normally move to another company/division/agency? What is your policy about promotions from within? What happened to the person(s) who last held this position? How many have held this job in the last 5 years? How are employees evaluated?
9. (Industry) What trends do you see for this industry in the next 3 to 5 years? What kind of future do you see for this organization? How much of your business is tied to (the economy, government spending, weather, supplies, etc.)?
10. (Advice) How well-suited is my background for this field? When the time comes, how would I go about finding a job in this field? What experience, paid or volunteer, would you recommend? What suggestions do you have to help make my resume more competitive? What advice would you have for someone getting started today?
11. (Demand) What types of employers hire people in this line of work? Where are they located? What other career areas do you feel are related to your work?
12. (Hiring Decision) What are the most important factors used to hire people in this work (education, past experience, personality, special skills)? Who makes the hiring decisions for your department? Who supervises the boss? When I am ready to apply for a job, whom should I contact?
13. (Job Market) How do people find out about job openings in this field? Are they advertised in the newspaper (which ones?), on the Web? by word-of-mouth (who spreads the word?) by the human resources office?
14. (Referral to Other Information Opportunities) What professional organizations might have information about this career area? What trade journals or magazines would you recommend I review?
15. (Referral to Others) Based on our conversation today, would you recommend I talk to others in the profession? Can you name a few of these people? May I have permission to use your name when I contact them?
16. Do you have any other advice for me?
HOW DO I ARRANGE THE INTERVIEW?
1. Phone or email your contact person to explain your request for an appointment to learn more about his/her profession.
2. Introduce yourself using a personal referral. If possible, have a mutual acquaintance or as the bridge for your contact. (e.g., "I'm Jessica Long. Bessie Strong gave me your name.).
3. Explain your request to schedule an appointment for gathering information about their field of work. If questioned, indicate clearly that you are not applying for a job at this time, but merely conducting career research to help you make better decisions. If the person you are trying to reach is not in, you can leave a message or ask when would be a good time to call back.
4. Try to schedule a 20-30 minute appointment, to be conducted by phone or in person at their convenience. If the present time is too busy for the person you contact, ask when would be a better time or ask if he/she can suggest another contact in the organization that could provide you with helpful information.
5. If your intent is to speak with the individual in person (which is optimal), try to avoid letting your phone call to schedule the appointment turn into the actual interview. However, sometimes the person might say over the phone: "I have some time now ... what did you want to ask me?" You should be prepared to conduct the interview over the phone if the person gives you an opportunity to do so. If you are able to schedule an on-site visit, remember to ask for directions and parking information.
· Do not exceed your requested time, but be prepared to stay longer in case the contact indicates a willingness to talk longer.
· Dress as if it were an actual job interview. First impressions are always important.
· Get to your appointment a few minutes early and be courteous to everyone that you meet – secretary, receptionist, etc.
· Take the lead in conducting the interview. They will expect you to lead this meeting by explaining your situation and asking your interview questions.
· Ask open-ended questions which promote a discussion and cannot be answered with one word responses. Take notes!
· Once inside the organization, look around. What kind of working environment is there -- dress style, communication patterns, sense of humor, etc? Is this a place you would want to work?
Send a note thanking your contact for his/her time and information. Explain how this interview helped you and how you plan to use this information as you enter the job market. Record the information that you obtained: names, comments, and new referrals for future reference, and make appointments to interview the referrals.
Evaluate your experience. How did you manage in scheduling and conducting the information interview? How well did you prepare? Did you get the information you sought? What information do you still lack? Do you need to interview more people in order to get more than one biased viewpoint or additional information? What do you need to do next?
After doing several information interviews you will be more informed. You will be able to make better decisions which are based on accurate, current information.
· If you were trying to choose a major, you now are more familiar with various career paths a major might lead to. You also may have learned numerous methods to prepare for a particular occupation, not only through academic majors, but also work experience and college activities.
· If you were trying to choose an occupation, you now are more aware of position titles, job descriptions and qualifications, types of employers, the skills utilized, as well as the interests and values expressed in several occupations.
· If you were preparing for a job hunt, you now are more familiar with potential employer contacts and the hiring process. You have developed your interviewing skills and received feedback on your resume and job hunting strategies. You have also demonstrated assertive job hunting behaviors by selecting, scheduling, participating in, and following through interview appointments.