Informational Interview 101

What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone working in an area that interests you who will give you information and advice about a job or occupation.

Step 1: Identifying People to Interview

  • Use 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.
  • Identify names of GW alumni.
    • GW graduates will often take a special interest in GW students.
    • Utilize the GW alumni network and LinkedIn to find them.
    • Contact members of professional organizations.

Step 2) Preparing for the Interview & Initiating Contact

  • Develop a brief introduction & plan open-ended questions to ask.
  • Contact the person by phone or email.
  • Mention how you got his or her name. Ask whether it’s 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 won’t be readily available otherwise.

Step 3) Requesting an Informational Interview: Sample Phone Transcript

  • “Hello, my name is Sandra Johnson and I’m a second year master’s student in electrical engineering at GW’s SEAS. Is this a good time for you to talk briefly? I heard you speak at an event sponsored by SEAS Career Services last semester. While I am not currently looking for a job, I am very interested in EE and would like to learn more about the field. Would it be possible to schedule 20 to 30 minutes with you at your convenience to ask a few questions and get your advice on how best to prepare to enter the field?”

Step 4) Conducting the 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. Take notes if you’d like.
  • Respect the person’s time. Keep the meeting length within the agreed-upon timeframe.
  • Ask the person if you may contact them again in the future with other questions.
  • Ask for names of other people to meet to gain different perspectives.

Step 5) Follow-Up

  • Keep records.
    • Write down what you learned, what more you’d like to know and your impressions of how this industry, field or position would fit with your lifestyle, interests, skills and future plans.
  • Send a thank-you note…
    • within 1-2 days to express your appreciation for the time and information given.
  • Keep in touch
    • 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.
By Amber Samuels
Amber Samuels SEAS Career Services Fellow Amber Samuels