The Best Kept Secret for Career Planning – The Informational Interview, Part 3

6. What characteristics have you noticed that enable a person in your field to succeed?
7. What kind of education and training is needed for this job?
8. Where do you see this industry going in the future?
9. How do you stay current in your field and “on top of your game”?
10. Is there anyone else you recommend I can talk to in relation to this career/field?

These are by all means just suggestions, so feel free to choose the ones you like and add your own. It is a good idea to ask one or 2 questions to demonstrate you’ve done your research and therefore prove your sincere interest. Asking something related specifically to the field or a related article about the person are a couple ways to do this.

After the Interview

So you asked some great questions, got some invaluable insights, and thanked them for their time. Now what? Send another thank you! They’ve done you a great service, show your appreciation. An e-mail is one way to do this, but according to Darren at, a thank-you card is “extra classy”. That sounds like a lot of brownie points to me. (If you want more great tips on informational interviews, click here.)

Another good idea is to jot down any notes immediately after the interview – especially things that struck out at you. You can take notes during the interview if you like, but as it is quite brief, it’d be better to devote your time building that relationship and getting to know your interviewee and their position.

Self-reflect. It’s not cheesy! Think about what you’ve learned from the interview. After all the aim is educational. Are you still interested in the position? Why or why not? Did the interview dispel any preconceived notions you had of the position? What skills and training do you need to gain in order to make yourself competitive? The list goes on.

Just a few more tips and reminders…

I know I said it at the very beginning, this is NOT a job interview, but please do keep this in mind. Be sincere and honest. At the same time, this still has a potential to become a job interview later. If you are truly skilled at being subtle, you may even be able to do it during the informational interview. Be careful – You can really turn people off if you make them feel deceived.

Send a follow-up of some kind: handwritten note, e-mail, a card. In a job interview, those who get remembered and eventually hired do this. It’s also so helpful when trying to be remembered after an informational interview.

Dress professional. This is not as formal as a job interview, but it is still important to look nice. Business casual should be fine.

An informational interview is a great educational tool in learning more about your career and field of choice. If you are considering a job change or are unemployed, seriously consider an informational interview. Now that you know, try it!

The Best Kept Secret for Career Planning – The Informational Interview, Part 2

Dear Mrs. McGregor,

I recently graduated from the University of Miami, and after my good friend, David Johnson, learned that I was interested in a career in marketing, he suggested I contact you to request a brief informational interview.

While at the University of Miami, I majored in marketing. In addition, I had an internship last summer at Razor Corp, where I assisted media buyers on several high-profile interactive marketing campaigns. I now plan to apply both my education and my work experience to a career in marketing. At your convenience, I was hoping to learn what types of positions you suggest for a recent college graduate, and also to hear your thoughts the future of the industry as a whole.

Thank you very much for your time. If you are available to speak with me, we can talk over the phone, or I can meet you at a location of your choosing. I can be reached at 646 402 5557or by e-mail at


Michael Humphrey

For an example from of how to do a phone call, click here. I would also attach your resume because HR will generally keep this on file, and who knows, there’s a chance they can end up contacting you if a position opens. Also, the interview doesn’t have to be face-to-face, but it’ll be a better learning experience versus over the phone.

Questions to Ask

The most important thing here is to prepare. It may not be a job interview, but you are the one asking the questions. Think about what you actually want to know. This is not a time for you to ask about vacation time, 401k, salary, and so forth. You are still representing yourself, and your questions will reflect back on you. It may not be an employment interview now, but it has a strong potential to be one down the line. Prepare, prepare, prepare. It’s so very important. Do your research, know what you are looking for when asking a question, and be yourself and professional. As optimistic and supportive as we all like to be, we also know that there is such a thing as a stupid question.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Why did you choose this field?
  2. How did you get started in it?
  3. What is a typical work day like?
  4. What aspect do you enjoy the most in your job? the least?
  5. How would you describe the company culture?

click here for part 3 on informational interviews

The Best Kept Secret for Career Planning – The Informational Interview, Part 1

A look at informational interviews, how to arrange one, questions to ask, follow-up and other helpful tips.

Never heard of this? You wouldn’t be the only one. Informational interviews provide a wealth of information when it comes to career planning, yet so many people are unaware that it even exists. It’s nothing new, in fact far from it. Richard Bolles, author of “What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career Changers”, first coined the term over 35 years ago. With the downturn in the economy, job hunting is having a revival and the informational interview is a trick in the trade you may not want to overlook.

First things first, what is it? An informational interview is an interview aimed at gathering information about a job or position at a company of your interest. Most people set out to do these before graduation or when they are considering a job or career change. It is NOT an interview for employment. Think of it as a non-committal conversation starter. The idea is to “feel” out a job – What do you like? What don’t you like? – so that you can integrate your thoughts from this into your career or grad school planning. Typically, 15 – 30 minutes is sufficient time. Remember, this is not a sneaky way to try to get a job; the person interviewing you is genuinely doing it to help you out, so be considerate of their time. With an informational interview, it is all about you, and you are the one asking the questions.

Arranging an Informational Interview

Before you begin calling all the people you admire and sending out your e-mails, it’s important to do your research.  Find the people who are path finders and inspirational to you in your career of choice, research them, see what their network is like through social networking sites like LinkedIn Also, look at your own network. Ask friends, colleagues, family members, relatives, neighbors, anyone who may be able to assist you in finding the right candidate for your informational interview.  HR is usually the one to set up an informational interview, but each company is different. Sometimes it may make sense to contact the person directly. It can even be flattering for them, after all, you have singled them out as a person full of valuable information and in a position you may want to aspire to one day.

There are two options: e-mail or phone call. And thankfully to, here’s an example of how to do one:

click here for part 2 on informational interviews