What is an Informational Interview?
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Informational interviews are conversations with industry professional where you get to ask the questions. These can be virtual, in person, emails or phone calls. These are intended for you to learn more about specific jobs, industries and positions in order for you to decide if they are a good fit for you. This can be especially helpful if you are considering multiple industries or comparing companies.
Career Exploration is for everyone but this is especially important for freshman and sophomores who are undecided on the type of career they would enjoy. Juniors and Seniors, don’t skip this step; if you want to set a strong first impression and build a network you can lean on during internship and job searching, this is also a great way to start that process.
Identify People in positions of interest
Lehigh Connects, student to alum networking community. Review thousands of alumni profiles and filter to identify a mentor that aligns with your career interests
LinkedIn Career Insights: Review over 65,000 Lehigh profiles to see professional details and educational information
Determine if any friends or family work in positions of interest
Ask your network (classmates, neighbors, family, friends, etc.) for referrals to their connections who work in areas of interest
Start with a message that introduces yourself and includes details about what you hope to get out of a meeting or phone call. This should include basic information about yourself, your availability to meet or talk (dates and times), and contact information. You can schedule an informational interview anytime, and semester breaks give you some extra flexibility to communicate.
Career exploration example:
My family friend, Joe Schmoe, shared your name and email with me as recommendation of a successful professional with in ____________. I am currently a freshman/sophomore studying __________ at Lehigh University and am very interested in completing career exploration in your field. It was my hope that we could schedule a meeting for video chat so I could learn more about your career, the culture of your company, and your advice for me to prepare for working in positions like __________ or ______________. Specifically, I would also love the opportunity to job shadow with you during my winter break, and I am available between January 3-19 for partial or full days. My schedule is flexible during break and I would love to spend time at your office to get a sense to what real life projects you complete, the team dynamics that are in place and ask questions of you and your co-works so I can assess if this would be a good fit for my future career. In case you would like to review it, I have also attached my resume. I would love to hear back from you and appreciate any assistance you might be able to offer.
Job or internship searching example:
Thank you for accepting my connection request on LinkedIn and sharing your email with me. As you may have seen from my profile, I am studying _________ at Lehigh University and plan to graduate in May 20XX. My hope is to begin an internship/full-time position in (add date) and I would especially enjoy positions/departments such as _________ and _________. As I am in the process of organizing my application materials and identifying open positions, I would love an opportunity to better understand the company culture and work you do at (add company name here). Do you have time in the next couple of weeks to schedule a phone call or zoom meeting with me so I could ask you questions about careers within ______________? In an effort to be confident in my internship/job search steps, I value your thoughts, advice and insight you can share. I have also included my resume in case you would like to review it or share it with anyone you know who might be hiring.
Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.
(your name here)
Need more help drafting a message to an alum or industry contact? You can also use the online tool Mango to help you draft a message.
Don’t forget networking etiquette
Proof reed, Poof read, Proof read! Grammatical errors in your emails, sloppy messages or slang can negatively shape a first impression. Make sure you review your emails carefully, use your please and thank yous and promptly respond to any communication you receive. And don’t wait until the last minute! Reaching out 2-4 weeks before your availability starts ensures your contacts have time to respond before the holidays, can arrange the meet up to include co-workers/presentations, tours, etc. and/or have time to get clearance from managers if needed.
Build a set of questions to ask
Do your research first, learn everything you can about the company or person via their websites, LinkedIn pages, social media and a google search. Use the Handshake networking tile to review networking guides and sample questions but try to customize these to your field. Think about what you need to know to determine if this job, company or industry would be a good fit for you.
Informational Interview sample questions:
Can you describe an average day in your job?
How did your Lehigh degree prepare you for your work?
What advice do you have for my next job/internship search steps?
How could I build experience your industry/company/position?
What goals should I set to be ready for a future job/internship search?
If meeting in person dress the part; business professional is likely the best approach
Have a resume ready in case they ask for it or request to share it with a contact.
Ask “When preparing for our meeting, is there anything in particular you want me to have prepared?"
Respond to communication from your contact within 1-2 business days
Make sure your voicemail on your phone has a professional message and is not full
After your meeting or conversation send a thoughtful thank you email or note and ask to stay in contact.
Example follow up message:
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me on the phone today about your career path and the marketing industry. I wanted to let you know I took your advice about expanding some of the details on my LinkedIn profile and began working on a website that can serve as a digital portfolio of my work. Once I have those steps completed, could we touch base again for you to review the updates? I also emailed (name) as you suggested so I could ask about possible internships with (company name). Overall, our meeting was very helpful for me and I enjoyed working on some the next steps you helped me identify.
Thank you for your time and advice,
Need more help preparing for a Informational Interview?
Read: Learn from me: Informational Interviews (blog post written by a Lehigh student)
Attend Career Lab walk in hours to meet with Career staff (search Handshake events for dates/times)
Review the Networking Guide