To make informed decisions about your career, learning or work options, you need up–to–date, accurate information. One of the best ways to gather facts about the world of work is an information interview.
Information interviewing is based on the idea that if you want to find out what it’s like to be a graphic artist, ask a graphic artist! Likewise, if you want to find out what it’s like to work for a company, talk to company employees. Do you want to take a post–secondary or training program? Talk to program graduates.
The term information interviewing may sound formal. It's often just a matter of talking to people you already know who have experience in the areas that interest you. Even people you do not know may agree to be interviewed. Just approach them in a sincere and open manner. Generally, most people enjoy talking about their experience.
- Decide what kind of information you’re looking for. Do you want to know about an occupation, an industry sector, an organization or an educational program?
- Do your homework. Research print, online and video resources to learn about your area of interest. For research help and suggestions, visit Exploring Occupational Options.
- Identify questions you haven’t been able to answer through your research. For ideas and examples of questions, use these resources.
- Decide which questions are most important and plan to ask them first, in case you don’t get time to ask them all.
Set up an information interview
- Identify someone with experience in the occupation, sector, organization or program in which you’re interested. If you don’t know anyone appropriate, ask the people in your network to refer you to someone they know. You may also be able to connect with someone to interview through a professional, trade or industry association.
- Find out about the person you want to talk to. If you’re being referred, ask your mutual contact to share some background. Google the person’s name. Use the information you discover to refine your questions.
- If you’re nervous about emailing or phoning someone you don’t know, practise with a friend. Eventually you will feel more confident.
- Make your initial contact by phone or email to set up the interview:
- If you’re making contact by email, give your email a subject heading that won’t be mistaken for junk mail. (For example: Experienced chef seeks information.) Keep your email short and to the point.
- If you’re making contact by phone, write, practise and use a script.
- Be prepared to conduct your interview on the spot. Your contact may say that now is a good time.
- When you make contact:
- explain who you are, who referred you and what information you’re looking for
- be brief
- ask for 10 to 15 minutes of the person’s time
- arrange to meet in person, if possible
- If the person turns you down, ask for a referral.
Know how to conduct an information interview
- Make sure you’re prepared for the interview:
- Refer to your list of questions.
- Be ready to make detailed notes.
- Develop and use an interviewing script (PDF) if it will help you feel confident and stay on topic.
- Be polite and professional. Arrive, call or email on time. Dress, speak and write appropriately.
- Take only as much time as you’ve asked for.
- Don't use an information interview to ask for a job or promote yourself as a potential employee. It’s unprofessional and reflects badly on you and the person who referred you.
- Always thank the person at the end of the interview. Follow–up with a thank–you note or email.
Use information interviews to learn more about your career options.
An information interview is an effective way to get first–hand, real–life information. You can learn about an occupation, industry, organization or program you’re interested in. Talk with experienced people can give you the kind of information that’s usually not available anywhere else. They can also open up opportunities, expand your network and inspire you to keep pursuing your goals.