At an informational interview, you can:
- Get first-hand information about various careers in the educational field.
- Get ideas for useful new job leads.
- Connect with people in senior positions and make a good first impression with those who may be able to hire you.
- Ask for referrals to expand your network of contacts.
- Even though you should not ask directly for a job at an informational interview, the person might think to consider you if you present yourself as professional, capable and a good fit for the company.
To set up an interview, you should:
- Identify someone to interview. Ask people you know, look up professional organizations and browse through LinkedIn, Facebook and Google search for valuable contacts.
- Contact the person by phone or email and request an appointment. Be sure to state the reason you are contacting them, how much time you are seeking (say, 30 minutes), and how you learned about them and their work. If someone introduced you, be sure to mention their name.
- Research and read as much as you can about the organization and career field.
- Prepare a list of focused questions that not only expresses your seriousness and professionalism, but could also help you eventually get a job. Some sample questions you could ask include:
“What advice would you have for someone starting out in this field?”
“What skills and characteristics are important for success in this job?”
“What are some growth areas in this field?”
“Based on your knowledge of the educational system, can you think of any places where I might look for employment based on my skills/experience/education?”
To ensure the interview is a successful event, you should:
- Dress professionally and carry yourself as if it were a job interview.
- It is good to create a 30 second introduction that promotes your skills and abilities to a potential employer. It is helpful to write it out first and then practise, practise and practise! Use the template below to create your 30 second introduction.
Hello my name is _____________________________.
I have _____________ years experience in the field of ____________________________.
I have a ___________________________ in _____________________. (degree/diploma/certificate)
My skills include ___________________________________________________________. (technical, hard, soft and transferable, related to field of work)
Through my professional experience I have _____________________________________. (accomplishment related to field of work)
I’m looking for work in the field of _______________________________.
- At the beginning of the meeting, be sure to thank the person for meeting with you.
- Plan your agenda with select questions that will give you the most information. This is your chance to ask lots of questions. Ask about the organization’s culture, employees and supervisors to explore whether you would be a good fit. Ask about how the person got into their current role. Ask about the expectations for entry-level positions. Maybe even ask for a quick tour. You can learn a lot during an informational interview, so be sure to take notes.
- Request a referral. This is helpful to expand your network. It is perfectly acceptable to ask: “Who do you suggest I could speak with next? Can you connect me to someone you know for more information? Would it be ok if I keep in touch with you?”
After the interview, you should:
- Follow-up with a thank-you email stating your gratitude for the time given. Stay in touch by sharing your professional progress through email and informing the person how helpful their suggestions have been.
- Be open to learn from the interview. Each interview gives you valuable input and can also help you sharpen your interview skills so that when a real job interview does come up, you will be prepared.