“Dear Pete: What is an information interview? I’m not sure what I want to do next in my career, and one of my friends told me I should schedule some information interviews to figure it out.”
Your friend has given you some great advice. An information interview is an appointment with someone who has work experience in a job, field, or industry that you are considering. By conducting information interviews strategically, you can get an insider’s perspective and determine if a career path is right for you. There are many benefits to conducting information interviews:
- You can learn what it’s really like to work in a field/industry. An industry insider will typically give you more accurate, unbiased information than public sources (i.e. professional associations, employer web sites, or occupational guides, although those can be helpful as well.)
- Information interviews help you strengthen your networking skills and interview skills.
- Information interviews help you build relationships with people who could become sources for job leads or referrals in the future.
Thanks to the Internet, it’s now easier than ever before to find people to conduct information interviews with. Facebook has over 800 million worldwide users, and LinkedIn has over 150 million worldwide users (both as of 2012). By using these web sites, you can easily keep track of your personal, academic and professional networks and even get automatic updates when people change jobs or careers.
You can also access anyone’s entire employment history online and learn where they have worked in the past. Perhaps most importantly, you can see who your contacts know. Think about that for a second. You can literally see someone’s professional rolodex on LinkedIn. (As long as someone has not set their connections to private, you can click on the word “Connections” on someone’s LinkedIn profile summary, and you will be brought to a page that shows you everyone he knows.)
Make sure to personalize your requests for information interviews, whether you contact someone through a referral (the ideal way to reach out), through social media, or if you contact someone “cold” via phone, email, or mail.
Note: In future articles, I’ll also answers questions about what to write in your request for an information interview, how to prepare for an information interview, what questions to ask in an information interview, and how to follow-up after an information interview.