An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone working in an area that interests you. It’s a great tool for learning about a particular role or industry, and for seeking advice on your own goals. It is not a job interview, and the objective is not to get a job. Informational interviews work very well over phone or video call.
Here are steps you can take to find contacts, reach out, and connect for an informational interview:
❶ Determine your goals
- What are you hoping to learn?
- What would you like to figure out?
- What career fields or industries are of interest?
❷ Make a list of potential contacts
Based on your goals, try to identify 5-7 people you could talk to. Beyond people you already know or contacts they might have, U-M alums are a great resource! Many professionals, especially alums, enjoy sharing their career journeys and providing advice to students with similar interests.
For more on how to decide who to contact, see this video.
For a way to keep information about your contacts organized, try the Hub's networking tracker:
❸ Draft and send an outreach message
Choose 1-2 people from your list of potential contacts to reach out to first, and send them a message.
For more on how to write a message, see this guide on Outreach and Thank You Messages.
For an interactive space to draft your message, try Lettersmith, a writing app that provides outlines and examples for different professional communications.
❹ Prepare questions to ask
Do a bit of research on your contact’s background via LinkedIn or another professional profile. From there, prepare 7-10 questions to guide the conversation. Potential topics to cover:
- Your contact’s educational and/or professional journey
- Their company, field, or industry
- Advice you would find helpful
Here are some sample questions you can use or adapt from:
- Could you share the story of your career journey? How did you come to work in X (career field, company, etc.)?
- What are the most important skills to develop in order to be successful working in X?
- What are some successes/challenges you’ve encountered while working in X?
- What are the industry trends? Where do you think the field is heading in 10 years?
- Is there anyone else you would recommend I speak to to learn more about X?
For more on preparing for your first conversation, see this video.
❺ Conduct the interview
- Check that you have the correct date and time for your meeting.
- Find a quiet space for your conversation if possible. For video calls, try to set up your space so that a wall is behind you and have a backup plan in case of technical difficulties (i.e., an alternative device, the phone number of your contact, connection to a mobile hotspot, etc.).
- Bring your questions and be ready to take notes!
❻ Send a thank-you note
Write an email to thank your contact for their time and to share a part of the conversation you found valuable. It’s a good idea to send your message within 48 hours of your meeting.
For more on drafting your message, see the Outreach and Thank You Message guide.
❼ Reflect on what you learned
Set aside a few minutes to look back at your goals and any notes you took during the conversation. Take a few minutes to capture what you learned:
• What progress did you make on your goals?
• What new information or resources did you gain?
• What next steps will you take?
You may want to stay connected with the person you spoke to and share occasional updates, or you may decide not to stay in touch if your interests don’t align. After reflecting on your goals, you might be ready to reach out to someone else on your list for another informational interview!
To work through any of these steps with a Hub Coach, set up an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.