DePaul University Career Center's Blog

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6 Tips for Informational Interviews

Sabah Nanlawala

As you’re navigating and developing your career plan during your undergraduate years, informational interviews are a great, low-stakes opportunity for you to speak with a professional about your area of interest. By asking the right questions you can gain insight on a specific profession and their day-to-day, learn about a different career path you may have not heard of, and get tips on how to prepare for and land your first job in the field. Here are six steps to keep in mind: 

Identify who you want to interview:

Based on your interests, identify professionals within the field to arrange an interview with. But, before expanding your search on LinkedIn, consider who is available to you at DePaul. Reach out to your professors and speak directly with them, or ask if they know of someone they can connect you with. Also tap into the Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Network and find DePaul graduates in fields that align with your interest and/or major.

Initiate Contact:

Send out a brief email (or message on LinkedIn or ASK) asking to meet for an informational interview. If you were referred to them by someone else, ask to be introduced through email or mention the name of the person who referred them in an email yourself. Remember that this is not a job interview, so make sure to emphasize that your intention is to learn more about their field. The email should be concise and friendly, and be sure to acknowledge their busy schedule and propose a reasonable amount of time to meet (30 minutes to an hour). Be sure to offer to meet at their convenience and a flexible modality (i.e. via Zoom, in-person etc.). If you haven’t heard back from them in a week, feel free to send a follow-up email, as well. 

Pro tip: If you’re reaching out to someone you aren’t connected to on Linkedin, send a personal message with the invite. Be mindful of the limited character count and keep your message brief. Be sure to greet them, introduce yourself, and express your interest in their profile/background, and that you would like to connect!

Prepare for the Interview:

Once you’ve scheduled a time to meet, prepare a list of questions to ask them. Asking the right questions will ensure you can get the most information out of this interview.  Here are some topics and questions to consider: 

  1. About their job i.e. What is a typical day (or week) like for you?
  2. Academic background, training, preparation i.e. How relevant is your undergraduate major to your work?
  3. Professional development i.e. What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/this field?
  4. Entering the field i.e. How do most people get into this field? What are common entry-level jobs?

Before the Interview:

Be sure to dress appropriately in business casual. If you are meeting in person, make sure to arrive a few minutes early. Or if you are meeting on Zoom, make sure your technology is set up and you are in a quiet and appropriate setting. Have your list of questions ready and a notebook to take notes if necessary. 

Things to keep in mind during the interview:

Be sure to greet them and thank them again for their time. Before the conversation, provide a brief overview of yourself (i..e your education, your work background, interests etc.), and let them know you have some questions prepared. Of course, while you are primarily directing the conversation, be sure to let the conversation flow naturally and encourage them to do most of the talking. You may learn something you hadn’t even thought of! Don’t forget to be mindful of the time you agreed upon, and be sure to thank them again for their time. 

Follow Up:

The person you met with has taken time out of their busy schedule to meet with you, so be sure to send a follow up email within 1-2 days expressing your gratitude. Feel free to ask them if you may contact them again in the future or if they can connect you with other people in their network. 

While informational interviews may seem intimidating, it is actually an opportunity for you to gain more than you can lose. Following these steps can get you started in the process and ensure that you can make the most out of your time meeting with them. By the end of it, you will have more industry insight to plan the next steps of your professional journey, and will have expanded your professional network.  

Need help finding and connecting with professionals? Want to brainstorm good questions to ask them? That’s exactly where we come in. Whether you’re a freshman or an alumnus, it’s never too early (or too late) to utilize our services. Book an appointment with Sabah, or another member of the advising community through Handshake, or by calling the front desk at (773) 325-7431. 

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