Informational Interviewing

What is an informational interview? An informational interview is a conversation with someone who is currently in your desired career field or who may have taken a similar path as you. This person can give you an insider’s perspective into a specific career, position, industry, or field. An informational interview is not the time to ask for a job, but rather a time to build your network and explore a career path.

What is a job shadow? A job shadow is a means for exploring a career by walking through the work day as a "shadow" to a worker. A job shadow is usually very short-term – anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Unlike an internship, it is not done to gain experience in a certain field, but rather to witness a certain profession first-hand. Job shadows are highly enlightening; they can either magnify your ambition to pursue a certain career or give you a chance to redirect your path to find a better fit.

Asking people for informational interviews or for a job shadow: People who enjoy their work like introducing their work to others. Do not be shy to ask for one of these experiences, but be specific about the time commitment you are requesting. Ask if you can speak with them for 20-30 minutes, or if you can shadow them. If this is your first email, be sure to introduce yourself. You will need to include how you found this person (through the Handshake Mentor Database, a friend, a professor, someone in your current internship, etc.).

Preparing for an informational interview or job shadow: Do your homework. While you can ask general questions about the field, the organization and the person’s position, it helps to show you have done some research. You can find information about the organization online. Be on time for your appointment and wear business professional attire. Always bring copies of your résumé with you to ask for a review.

Sample questions you might ask at an informational interview or job shadow (pick some):

The most important questions to ask are the ones that you want answers to. Make the time to think about what you will get out of this conversation.

  • On a typical day in this position, what do you do?
  • What training or education is required for this type of work?
  • What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this job?
  • What part of this job do you find most satisfying? Most challenging?
  • How do you see jobs in this field changing in the future? Is there a demand for this occupation?
  • What special advice would you give a person thinking about entering this field?
  • If you could do things again, would you choose the same path? Why? What would you change?
  • With the information you have about my education, skills, and experience, what other fields or jobs would you suggest I research?
  • What steps have you taken to get where you are today?
  • Any additional advice/words of wisdom?

 Following-up: Say thank you! Nothing is more important in this entire networking process as sending a thank you note to your contact.