Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are a common way to gather information about various careers by speaking with professionals in the field. Through informational interviews, you can explore career paths and job opportunities, as well as gain advice and insight into career industries and companies. Keep in mind that informational interviews are not about asking for favors or a job. Rather, they are an occasion for you to learn more about an individual’s career path and profession in a way that may inform your own journey.

Informational interviews can help you:

  • Make initial decisions about your major and career path
  • Learn about different positions in an area of interest and meet professionals working in those roles
  • Discover new areas of study or career options you didn’t know existed
  • Get a sense of the job market in your field
  • Make connections with professionals at specific organizations
  • Learn how to prepare for a specific role or field
  • Hear firsthand the realities of working within a particular field, industry or position. You can’t find this online!

Why It’s Not As Scary As You Think

  • People like to give advice and love to to share their stories
  • These professionals been in your shoes before and are happy to return the favor
  • The worst case scenario is that your contact is too busy to meet with you
     

Setting Up an Informational Interview

    Identify a Professional in the Field

    When beginning the search for someone with whom you can conduct an informational interview, a great place to start is your career community. A career community is a group of professionals linked together by a common industry area and includes your peers, your Career Community Advisor, alumnae, employers, faculty, and others. Also consider talking to advisors, professors, and other connections you have on campus, as well as friends, family members, coaches, and coworkers and/or supervisors from past jobs, internships, or volunteer positions. Even if these individuals are not within your career community of interest, they may have connections to people in your field. Lastly, there are electronic resources that can help you identify relevant individuals and Wellesley alumnae:

    1. The Wellesley Hive: The Wellesley Hive is a digital platform exclusively for the Wellesley community where you can mentor, or find mentorship. The Hive is a platform where alumnae and students can ask questions and seek guidance, coach and inspire, and find paths to professional aspirations during one-time conversations or through more long-term mentorship.

    2. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a free online professional networking platform. With more than 450 million users worldwide and over 25,000 active Wellesley alumnae, LinkedIn is a valuable resource for networking, exploring potential career paths, and building your professional presence online. Read our LinkedIn Resource to learn about all the ways you can do on the platform.

    Once you have identified someone you would like to speak with, send a concise message explaining who you are, why you are contacting them, and what you hope to learn. Ask if they are available for a brief (15-30 minute) conversation over the phone, through video call, or in-person to get information and advice about their career, field, or organization. If you are reaching out to someone you have not interacted with prior, allow 1-2 weeks for a response before following up.

    Example Email

    It can feel challenging to write an email asking someone to participate in an informational interview, especially when you have never met them before. To make this process a bit easier, we have provided a sample email that illustrates the appropriate tone you should use and information you should include when sending such a message. Additionally, remember that if you request an informational interview through The Hive, the platform provides sample messages for different topics, ensuring that you send a clear, concise, and typo-free request.

    Subject: Informational Interview Request

    Good afternoon Dr. Singh,

    My name is Helen Cho and I am a second year student at Wellesley. I am in the process of researching careers I may want to pursue upon graduation, and one of the paths I am exploring is chemistry research. I am interested in your experience in the pharmaceutical industry and would appreciate learning more about your experience and career path since graduation. I was wondering if we could set up a brief meeting sometime this month so I can learn more about what you do and how you got to be in your position. Please let me know if this is something you have time for, and your availability in the coming weeks. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and connecting over our shared interest in chemistry and experiences at Wellesley!

    Thank you so much for your time.

    Sincerely,

    Helen Cho

    Preparing for Your Informational Interview

      Before It Starts

      You should be ready to lead the meeting, since you are doing the interviewing!  Research the person you’re meeting with and look at their organization’s website. Write down questions about the professional’s career path and/or their company. Prepare a written list of questions prior to the meeting to bring with you (or have available if you are speaking by phone or video). Consider setting some specific goals for your interview so that you ask questions to get the information you are hoping to learn. For example, what do you most hope to learn from this conversation? What decision(s) are you hoping this conversation will help you to make?

      Sample Questions To Ask

      Career Journey

      • Did you know you wanted to be in this line of work when you were a student at Wellesley? 
      • What have been the most unexpected twists and turns throughout your career that got you to where you are today?
      • What was your major? How did your Wellesley education prepare you for this field?
      • Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in terms of career and graduate school choices after graduation?
      • What advice do you have for someone just getting started in this field?

      Nature of the Work 

      • What are the specific responsibilities of your role? 
      • Describe a typical day/week.
      • What are the toughest issues that you deal with? 
      • What part of this work do you find most rewarding? 
      • How does the work cycle change throughout the year?                  

      Work Qualifications 

      • What kind of training or education is required? 
      • What skills are most essential in this career? 
      • What kinds of prior experiences are absolutely essential? 
      • Are there any professional organizations you find helpful?

      Working Environment 

      • What type of setting, hours, atmosphere, are expected? 
      • How much flexibility do you have in terms of hours of work, dress, vacation, etc.? 
      • How often do you work alone? In teams?
      • How do you describe the culture at your organization?
      • How does this organization differ from competitors?
      • What opportunities for professional development does your company offer?
      • If you were not in your current job, what other positions would you consider?

      Work Entry 

      • How do I find out about internships/job openings in this field? Are there any strategies that work best?
      • Are there any networks, listservs, or other professional groups that you are a part of?
      • Do not ask the person you are speaking with for an internship or job! If they bring either up, then you are welcome to engage, but you should not be the one to ask.

      Advancement & Industry Outlook  

      • Do people normally move to another organization or do they move up internally?
      • If you went to graduate school, how did you navigate that decision? How has it helped you in your career?
      • How rapidly is the present career field growing?
      • Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

      Salary 

      • Do not ask them for their salary!  
      • If interested, ask about general ranges for their line of work, where entry level roles typically start, etc. 

      Other 

      • What have I not asked you about today that I should have?
      • Can we stay in touch if I ever have additional questions? Can I connect with you on The Hive or LinkedIn?

      During Your Meeting

        Tips For Success

        • Arrive on time, in professional dress, and be ready to introduce yourself and ask your questions.
        • If you are running late, communicate! Traffic and technology mishaps happen. Call, text, or email the person you’re interviewing to let them know when to expect you. 
        • Bring your written list of questions, along with paper and pen for taking notes.
        • Show your interest in, and enthusiasm for, the conversation.
        • DO NOT ask for a job. Remember your goal is to learn more information to help you in your career exploration.
        • Bring a copy of your resume just in case. You won’t want to proactively give this to your interviewee, but in the case that they ask to see your resume and offer feedback, you will be prepared.
        • Do not be afraid to ask the person you are speaking with to connect you to someone else following your conversation. After your interview, you may want to get additional information from another professional in a different type of work, and they might know someone to introduce you to.

        After Your Interview

          Take a Moment to Reflect

          Immediately following the informational interview, take a few moments to jot down a few notes about your experience. Asking yourself a few simple questions can be incredibly helpful when planning next steps such as whether to pursue job shadowing, conduct more research about the industry, or even prepare an internship or job application.

          • What did I learn about the industry and/or the professional’s career path?
          • What surprised or excited me the most?
          • What was the most helpful piece of advice I received?
          • Am I still interested in this career path?
          • What concerns do I have about this line of work?
          • Can I see myself enjoying in this line of work? Why?
          • Does this path capitalize on my strengths and align with my values?
          • What skills do I need to gain or further develop to succeed in this field?
          • What information am I still missing?
          • Now that the interview is over, what are your next steps? We encourage you to make an appointment with your College Career Mentor or Career Community Advisor to discuss your reflections further. These appointments will be helpful in identifying next steps in terms of your research and exploration.

          Thank You
          Be sure to send a thank you card or email within 24 hours to thank them for their time. Make this is a thoughtful note that highlights some top points you took away from the conversation, and how they helped you.

          Keep In Touch
          Don’t be afraid to keep in touch as you progress through your career. Now that you’ve made the connection, this person is part of your on-going network.