Careers Service

Informational Interviews

Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are informal conversations, eg over coffee or on the phone, with someone about their career or organisation. Their main purpose is not asking for a job. It is to get advice that will help you with career planning and job search.

Finding contacts

There are a number of ways you can find contacts. You could start with people you know, or friends of friends. Social media, particularly LinkedIn, with their Find Alumni tool, can be particularly useful. 

Attending employer presentations, recruitment fairs and events in your department and on campus can also be a good way to make contacts. Ask questions after the presentation and grab the chance to take their details and get in touch.

Check the websites of professional associations. They often have member directories where you can find potential contacts. If you’re a student or associate member of a professional body, you may also be able to attend industry events. Links to professional associations can be found on our sector-specific pages.

Making contact

Getting in touch with someone can feel daunting at first. Here's some advice to help you get started.

If you're going through a friend or family member, ask them to let their contact know that you'll be getting in touch.

Try to phone or email to ask for a short meeting (face-to-face, via telephone or Skype). About 20 to 30 minutes should be enough, but they may give you more time if things go well.

Introduce yourself and say how you got their details. Always start by asking for something they can give - advice and information. Be clear about why you want to talk to them.

Never ask for a job or an interview. This can put the person in an awkward position and you want your contacts to feel good about being able to help you.

It's important to focus on them, not yourself. Explain why you want to talk to them in particular, eg you value their insight.

It's useful to send a copy of your CV or link to your LinkedIn profile, to give them some background knowledge about you.

After the meeting, thank them in writing for their time. 

Aim to leave with one or two more names to help build your network. Be clear about what any new contacts can offer you in terms of expertise.

Be clear about what you want

Before you connect, make sure you do your research. If you don't know what you want, a meeting may turn into an aimless chat and end up being a frustrating experience all round.

Find out about the organisation in advance. One of the best ways to make them interested in you is to show that you are interested in them.

For example, the focus of a meeting could be on:

  • finding out more about careers and opportunities in that sector
  • getting advice on your job search, applications and interviews
  • opportunities for work shadowing or work experience
  • looking for new contacts to add to your network

Seek their advice. Be prepared to ask questions to give your contact the chance to pass on what they know. Listen to what they say and show that you value their advice.

Questions to ask

It's always good to ask questions when you meet contacts. What do you want to find out - what's important to you?

To help you get started, here are some questions you could ask:

About the career

  • How did you get into X career? or What’s the typical career path to get into X career?
  • What does a typical day look like?
  • What are your main tasks/responsibilities?
  • What do you like most/least about your job?
  • What skills, knowledge and experience are employers looking for in this field?
  • Which other roles do you work alongside?
  • Who are your customers/clients?
  • What is the working environment/culture like?
  • How do you develop in your role?
  • How is your job likely to change over time?

About your suitability for the career

  • Are there things I could do to strengthen my chances? (mention any relevant activities you already do)
  • Are there other career areas that my strengths and characteristics make me suitable for that I might not have thought of?
  • What do you think of my CV/LinkedIn profile? (you might concentrate on content, style or layout)
  • How could I use my CV to sell myself better to an employer?

About resources, opportunities and further contacts

  • Are there any specialist publications I should read? (mention any you already read regularly)
  • Are there any professional associations I should look into?
  • Does your organisation offer any work shadowing or project opportunities that would allow me to broaden my experience?
  • Could you recommend anyone else for me to talk to?

After the meeting

Reflect on the interview, what you have learned and how it might affect your career decisions. 

Send a brief thank you note to everyone who helped you.

Stay in touch. Update your contact(s) from time to time on your job search. Let them know what actions you've taken, what jobs you're looking at and anything they said or did that helped you.

This will help them remember you and let them know that the time they spent on you was worthwhile.