What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is a 20 – 30 minute meeting to help you learn about the real-life experience of someone working at a company, position, or industry that you are interested in. It’s not a job interview, but it can be a great way to build out your network in a relatively low-pressure environment. This is a safe environment to ask lots of questions!
- Usually done one-on-one, with the interviewee doing most of the talking.
- Allows you to build relationships in the industry.
- Informational interviews are a great place to start if you’re curious about a specific part of the industry (ex: cybersecurity, technical project management, UX designer, etc.)
Who to interview? (and how to find them)
Who should you interview?
- People with jobs you are interested in learning more about.
- Epicodus alumni. They’ve been in your shoes!
Try reaching out to connections you have made already at events or other networking. You can also try a connection of a connection. If you don’t know someone, but a connection you already know does, reach out to them for an introduction. If you don’t know someone at a company, LinkedIn is a great place to start. You can search for companies you might be interested in and then use the “People” tab to find folks. Connect, and then send them a message!
Making the Initial Ask
Once you’ve found someone you’d like to connect with and interview, the next step is to reach out! Like we’ve talked about in other lessons about cold outreach and following up, keep your message short, professional, and action-oriented.
- You can reach out via email or LinkedIn, depending on where you’ve made the initial connection
- Review the lesson on Expanding Your Job Search Network through Cold Outreach on LearnHowToProgram.com.
- If you need any help or want a second set of eyes on your message before you send it, feel free to reach out to your advisor!
Example — Asking for an Informational Interview
Subject: Thank you for the great presentation at Girls Who Code. Could I ask for an informational interview?
Hi Jane Doe!
Can we meet up for an informational interview in the next two weeks? [Online alternative: Can we schedule a time for a phone or video informational interview?]
Thank you for your time!
linkedin.com/jiaqili | 206-999-9999 | [email protected] | https://github.com/Jiaqi1994
Preparing for an informational interview
First, do your homework by researching the person, company, or role, and develop a list of questions.
- It’s okay if you don’t get to all of them (the conversation may flow naturally towards one subject or another), but this gives you a starting point.
- Personalize at least 3 – 5 questions specific to the person / company.
- Dress up for the occasion, like you would for a regular job interview. Be professional, polite, and mindful of their time. As with other types of networking, use this as an opportunity to build a relationship, rather than ask for a job. After the interview, make sure you connect on LinkedIn if you haven’t already, and always send a thank you note!
- Can you tell me a bit about your career path?
- How did you land in the role you are in today?
- What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
- What do you find to be the most challenging?
- Is there something that surprised you about the role when you first started?
- What skills do you think are most important for someone interested in a role like this?
- What is the company culture like at this company?
- What is it like to work for this company?
- How do you see this job changing in the next 10 years?
- If you could go back and do anything differently on this career path, what would it be?
- Can you tell me about a recent project or work that you’ve done?
- What attracted you to this career path?
- What previous professional experience have been most valuable to you in this role?
- What is one thing you wish someone would have told you before getting into this field?
- Who else would you recommend I talk to in the field to learn more?
NOTE: this is not an exhaustive list! Developing your own questions based on your specific interests will help you to determine if a certain career path, company, or position type may be the right fit for you!