Often the most current information
about a career field, especially in a specific geographic location, may
not be available in print or online resources. The best information comes
from people who are actually working in that career field.
interview is an informal conversation with someone working in an area of
interest to you who will give you information and advice. It is an effective
research tool in addition to reading books, exploring the Internet and
examining job descriptions. It is not a job interview, and the objective
is not to find job openings.
You may feel awkward making arrangements
to talk with people you don't know about their work. However, most
people actually enjoy taking a few moments out of their day to reflect
on their professional life and to give advice to someone with an interest
in their field.
Real-Life Example: Finding a Person to Interview
A student developed an interest in marketing but wasn't sure how to find people
in the field to talk to. She had worked as a clerk/typist in the payroll office of
University Extension for several years.
She decided to talk over her career
interests with her supervisor, who pointed out that Extension had a marketing
department and that she'd be happy to introduce her to the director. This "right
in your own back yard" referral led to a great informational interview and lots of
Benefits of Informational Interviewing
- Get firsthand, relevant information about the realities of working within a particular field, industry or position.
This kind of information is not always available online or in print.
- Find out about career paths you did not know existed.
- Discover what others with your same major are doing in their careers.
- Get tips about how to prepare for and enter a given career.
- Improve your communication skills and confidence speaking with professionals.
- Learn what itís like to work at a specific organization.
- Gain knowledge that can help you in writing your resume, interviewing for jobs in the field, and your other job search activities.
- Initiate a professional relationship and expand your network of contacts in a specific career field; meet people who may forward job leads to you in the future.
Six Steps for Informational Interviewing
Research Career Fields
Identify people to interview
- Pursue your own contacts.
People you already know, even if they aren't in fields of interest
to you, can lead you to people who are. This includes family, friends,
teaching assistants, professors and former employers.
- Call organizations directly
or visit their website for the name of someone working within a particular
area of interest.
- Review the Book of Lists, a directory of leading employers in major urban areas in California, part of the Career Center Collection.
- Read newspaper and magazine articles.
- Contact professional or trade associations.
- Identify names of Cal alumni.
Berkeley graduates will often take a special interest in Cal students.
Utilize the @cal Career Network and LinkedIn to connect with Cal alums.
Prepare for the interview
- Develop a short (15-30 second) overview of yourself, including your reasons for
contacting this person, as a way to introduce yourself and define the context of the
- Plan open-ended questions to ask.
- Contact the person by phone (see Sample Telephone Script below) or email (see
Sample Email (PDF)).
- Mention how you got his or her name.
- Ask whether itís a good time to talk for a few minutes.
- Emphasize that you are looking for information, not a job.
- Ask for a convenient time to have a 20-30 minute appointment.
- Be ready to ask questions on the spot if the person says it is a good time for him/her and that s/he wonít be readily available otherwise.
Sample Telephone Script Requesting An Informational Interview
Hello. My name is Jane Wilson and I'm a junior majoring in English at UC
Berkeley. Is this a good time for you to talk briefly? I heard you speak at an event sponsored by the Undergraduate
Marketing Association last semester. Although I am not currently looking for a
job, I have become very interested in public relations and would like to
find out as much as I can about the field. Would it be possible to schedule
20 to 30 minutes with you at your convenience to ask you a few questions
and get your advice on how best to prepare to enter the field?
Conduct the informational interview
- Dress neatly and appropriately, as you would for a job interview.
- Arrive on time or a few minutes early.
- Restate that your objective is to get information and advice, not a job.
- Give a brief overview of yourself and your education and/or work background.
- Be prepared to direct the interview, but also let the conversation flow naturally, and encourage the interviewee to do most of the talking.
- Listen well and show genuine interest in what the person has to say.
- Take notes if you'd like.
- Respect the person's time. Keep the appointment length within the time span that you requested.
- Ask the person if you may contact him or her again in the future with other questions.
- Always ask for names of other people to talk to for additional information or a different perspective.
Note: You can bring a resume, but donít take it out right away or lead with questions about it or your interviewee may
think youíre actually fishing for a job opportunity. You may wish to ask for input about it at some point in the interview,
but first make sure youíve established a comfortable rapport with the person.
- Keep records. Right after the interview write down what you learned, what more you'd like to know and your reactions
in terms of how this industry, field or position would "fit"
with your lifestyle, interests, skills and future career plans.
- Send a thank-you note within 1-2 days to express your appreciation for the time and information given.
Based on whether the informational interview was relatively informal or more businesslike, this may be a brief handwritten
note, an email, or a business letter (see
Sample Thank You Letter (PDF)).
- Keep in touch with the person, especially if you had a particularly nice interaction; let him or her know that you followed up on their advice and how
things are going as a result. This relationship could become an important
part of your network.
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