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An informational interview is one of the best ways to get information about a certain career field. Informational interviews are designed to enable you, the person seeking information, to ask questions of someone who is currently or has previously worked in a position, organization, or industry of interest to you. Informational interviewing is a technique to gather career information, and also to extend your professional network.

Finding Someone to Interview

Reach out to family, friends, professors, or former employers to see if anyone has any contacts in the job field of interest.

Once you've found someone to interview, reach out via phone or email to schedule a meeting. Make sure to include that you're hoping for an informational interview and not a job opportunity. Share that you are interested in that particular career field or organization and that you are hoping to connect to ask some questions and gain their perspective as a professional.

“ Reach out to alumni in your field of interest and pick their brains on what they like and dislike about the industry. Everyone loves to share their knowledge so do not hesitate to reach out. ”
Stephanie S., class of 2005

Prepare for the Informational Interview

Take time to think about what you really want to know about this career field. Write out questions in advance and leave them open-ended to stimulate discussion.

Have a notebook and pen handy to write down notes during the interview. If you are meeting in person take a copy of your resume or ask for a tour of the building.

Most importantly, be yourself! Ask questions that are of interest to you and think of this as a conversation rather than an interview.

Potential Questions to Ask

Get started by thinking of some questions that cover a variety of areas. While it's key to ask about their day-to-day and career field don't be afraid to ask about their own career path, what was influential while they were a student, or advice moving forward as a professional.

About the Person
  • What is your educational background?

  • How did you get started in this field?

  • How did you get to where you are today?

  • What are your future career plans?

  • What jobs did you have prior to this one?

  • What best prepared you for this job?

About the Job
  • What do you do during a typical workday?

  • What do you like most or find most interesting about your work?

  • What kind of challenges do you face? What do you find most difficult?

  • What skills or abilities do you find most important in your work?

  • What other career areas do you think are similar?

  • Tell me about your experience working at this company.

About the Career Field
  • What are the basic skills and experiences needed for jobs in the field?

  • What is the typical work environment like for a person in this career field?

  • What entry-level jobs qualify one for this field?

  • How long does it typically take to advance to the next step in this career path?

About your Career Planning
  • Would you recommend any specific courses or extracurricular activities to help me prepare for this field or to make me more marketable?

  • Are there any resources you recommend I review or organizations I could join to stay current with trends in the field?

  • Where would I find job or internship announcements?

  • Is there anyone else you suggest I speak with in order to gain another perspective about this field?

  • Would you mind reviewing my resume and provide some feedback on what I can improve?

  • Do you have any other advice or suggestions?

After the Informational Interview

Send a thank-you note and connect via LinkedIn to keep your network contact line open. Take some time to think about what you learned and how that impacts your view of that career field. Remember that work responsibilities and environments widely vary so continue to reach out to others to get different perspectives.

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Find a Penn State alum willing to connect and answer your questions. Search for a connection based on their major, current occupation, interests, and more.

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