Informational interviews allow you to find out about an industry or company of interest, build your professional network and promote your personal brand. If you do enough of them you might even meet somebody who is able to offer you a job later on.
How they work
In an informational interview, you talk with people to better understand their occupation or industry – and to build your contacts in that field. Informational interviews should take approximately 15-20 minutes. The person you are interviewing is giving up their valuable work time to help you. Don’t abuse it.
Do not ask for a job during an information interview. If you put somebody on the spot by asking them about a job during an informational interview, you will lose their goodwill and influence. Instead, ask intelligent questions about their work, their company and their industry.
Informational interviews are one of the most effective networking strategies. By reaching out and talking to people from companies or industries you're interested in, you can:
- Learn more about your career options and follow up on research you’ve done through courses, books and articles.
- Get information specific to you.
- Fast-track the answers to some of your career questions.
- Open the door to future opportunities like internships, volunteer roles, summer jobs, part-time work, contracts or paid work experience.
Finding people to interview
The UBC Sauder community can help you connect with alumni at events, recruiters at company information and industry insight sessions, and other professionals at CUS events and conferences. It’s also worth asking your career coach to recommend alumni or employers that may be willing to talk to you.
Identify companies you’re interested in, find out which employees to contact, and prepare some questions before you reach out by phone or email. Here are some resources to explore:
- Business in Vancouver is a weekly newspaper that features names of people and organizations in bold type, so they’re easy to find. BIV also has an events calendar, which you can find for free online.
- BCBusiness is a monthly magazine that also reaches readers through daily newsroom feeds, an e-newsletter and a website.
- Many professional associations have websites with industry information and career-related resources.
- Use the resources available at the Canaccord Learning Commons and through COOL to research specific companies.
You’ll also make contacts by getting out into the local business community, volunteering, reaching out on LinkedIn or Twitter, and attending company information sessions, industry events and student conferences on campus.
Once you’ve got a list of potential interviewees, introduce yourself in a few short lines, explain how you found their contact information and make sure you are specific about your purpose. Use the words “informational interview” and indicate how long you would like to meet for (15 or 20 minutes is typical). If somebody can’t meet with you, ask them to suggest other people or sources of information. If they are able to meet with you, offer to send your resume in advance so they can learn about you and anticipate your list of questions.
Remember to prioritize the topics you want to cover.
- What are some tasks or projects you work on?
- What skills can help you excel in this field?
- What would entry-level work in this field look like? How do you advance? What does the typical career path look like?
- How would the experience from this kind of job transfer to other roles?
- Where are the windows of opportunity in the profession?
- What advice would you give someone who wants to get into this field?
- What is the work culture like in your industry?
- What kinds of people are you in contact with regularly?
- What resources (websites, industry associations or organizations) should I look into?
- What is the most effective way to learn about current events and news particular to your industry?
- Who else should I talk to?
Tips for success
1. Assume that people are willing to talk to you.
You may think people aren’t interested in talking with you, but they will be supportive if you show genuine interest in what they do.
2. Don’t confuse it with a job interview.
Be clear with the interviewee – and yourself – that you’re only looking for information. Mention the skills or experiences that led you to this field, but don’t fish for opportunities.
3. Be respectful of time.
Don't go over the 15-20 minutes you've asked for.
4. Leave with at least two ideas to move forward.
This could be two people to talk to, two organizations to volunteer with, or two websites you hadn’t seen before.
5. Stay in touch and follow up.
Send a thank you note right after the interview and stay in touch with your contact to update them on your progress every month or so. Always follow up on any referrals you receive.