What to Expect in an Informational Interview

Dana Guterman
Updated: July 24, 2020

After reading this article. You’ll:

  • Understand the purpose of an informational interview.
  • Know how to prepare for an informational interview.
  • Be ready to get the most out of every informational interview.

Figuring out what to major in, where to intern, and what to do with the rest of your adult life can feel like a lot. There are plenty of guides out there, but the only way to really know what a certain job is like is to do it. (That’s why internships are so great!) Unfortunately, trying out 5,000 different careers is impossible. Lucky for you, there’s another option: Informational interviews.


What is an informational interview?

First, let’s define an informational interview.

An informational interview is a casual conversation between you and a professional working in a field or at a company that interests you.

It is not part of the formal interview process. You are not applying for an actual role. In fact, you’re interviewing the other person, as opposed to the other way around.


What is the purpose of an informational interview?

Potential applicants do informational interviews to learn more about a career, role, or company that interests them. By speaking with a seasoned professional, you gain firsthand knowledge of their real-world experience—and you can decide if you want to pursue a similar career.

Here are the benefits of an informational interview:

  • Learn more about a career, job, or company that interests you.
  • Build your network.
  • Get insider tips about how to break into a certain company or industry.
  • Practice your interview skills.


How do you get an informational interview?

To set up an informational interview, you need to find someone you want to speak to, and then reach out to find a time to talk.

1. Find someone you want to interview.

There are many ways to find contacts for an informational interview. These include:

  • Talk to friends and family to see who they know.
  • Reach out to alumni from your school.
  • Connect with people on LinkedIn or other social networking sites.
  • At the end of any informational interview, ask if there’s anyone else you should talk with.

Once you have some contacts, it’s time to reach out.

2. Reach out to find a time to talk.

You can do this over email or with a phone call, but email’s more common. Simply introduce yourself and explain why you’re interested in speaking with them. Be specific; wanting to “chat” or “pick their brain” is a waste of everyone’s energy. Additionally, you should be considerate of their time by assuring them that the conversation will only take 15–30 minutes.

A sample email requesting an informational interview might look like this:

Good morning [name],

My name’s [name], and I’m friends with [mutual contact], who suggested I connect with you to discuss your work as a [title]. I’m currently a Junior majoring in [major] at [school]. I’m graduating this spring, and I’d love to learn more about working in [sector]. Would you have 20 minutes to talk on the phone or grab a coffee so I can learn more about your career? I can talk whenever is most convenient for you.

Thank you so much for your time!



[Contact information]


How do you prepare for an informational interview?

Once you have an informational interview on the books, you want to make the most of the opportunity. To ensure you’re properly prepared, you need to do a little legwork.

  1. Do your research in advance.

Once you have a time, date, and place, it’s time to do your homework. You want to make the most of your time with this person, so read up on the industry and company beforehand.

  1. Prepare a list of questions to ask.

Take into consideration what you hope to gain from this interview and prioritize accordingly. Are you looking for general career advice? Company information? Industry contacts? Ask accordingly.

  1. Hone your elevator speech.

To avoid wasting time during your brief meeting, have a brief introduction at the ready. This 30-second intro should include your name, current role/school, and what you’re looking to gain from the interview.


Tips for your informational interview

On the big day, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep things professional. That means dressing well if it’s an in-person meeting, arriving a few minutes early, and being appreciative throughout.
  • Be brief. Informational interviews should be fast. You don’t want to take an hour or two out of someone’s day when they’re doing you a favor. Your elevator pitch should come in handy.
  • Go with the flow. This isn’t a regular interview, so you have to be open to having a regular conversation. While you’ll get the opportunity to ask targeted questions, you also might spend time talking about a mutual hobby or future vacation plans. Let it happen. An informational interview is also about forging a connection.
  • Pay if you can. If you’re doing coffee and can afford to pay for it, pick up the tab. This person’s really going out of their way to help you, and it’s a nice symbol of your appreciation. But if you can’t afford it, don’t sweat it—especially if you’re a student.
  • Ask for more contacts. At the end of your interview, ask if there’s anyone else you should speak with. Chances are this person has other industry contacts, so this is a great way to build your network. Be specific in who you’d like to speak with next, so that they recommend people who will truly be of help.
  • Don’t ask for an internship or job. That’s not what this is about. You’re getting advice and information, not an offer. If the person mentions an open role that interests you, great! But don’t force it.
  • Say thank you. Just as with any interview, be sure to email or write the person a thank-you note after the meeting.
  • Stay in touch. This person is now a valuable member of your network, so stay in touch! If you get a new job, let them know—especially if it’s thanks to someone they connected you with. And don’t forget that you can help them, too, by connecting them to people you know.


What’s next?

When the informational interview is over, be sure to write down the basic information you gained. This includes whom you met, where they work, and any other contacts they shared. You might consider compiling all of your applications, interviews, and informational interviews in a single spreadsheet, so that you have a helpful compendium of networking and job information all in one place.