Informational interviews provide an opportunity for you to interview industry professionals about their careers so you can gain a better understanding of what it is like to work in a particular industry. Informational interviews are also a great way to gain leads on potential internships or full-time jobs, help you stand out as a candidate and develop your business acumen (remember an informational interview is not a job interview or a request for a job). The Wisconsin BBA program HIGHLY RECOMMENDS that you conduct several informational interviews during your time as a Wisconsin School of Business student!
Brainstorm Your List of Contacts
Don’t know anyone who could possibly help you? You may not realize it, but as a Wisconsin School of Business student you are part of a community of peers and professionals that are often more than willing to assist you in your career quest. These are some groups of individuals you can add to your brainstorming list. Write down everyone you can think of and fine tune your list later.
Learn more about reaching out to those you know
Reach out to contacts professionally
When you have decided whom you want to contact from your brainstorming list, let them know you are looking for information and advice, not a job. Here is sample correspondence. Email is the most appropriate form of communication when introducing yourself.
Tips to Prepare
- Arrive to the appointment 5 to 10 minutes early.
- Dress professionally.
- Be completely prepared – remember they are doing you a favor.
- Remember you are in the “driver’s seat” in this interview – keep the conversation going and be ready with your questions.
- Get to the point quickly. Their time is precious, so use it effectively. You don't need to start with much small talk or "work your way up to" the real questions.
- Be a good listener. It's OK to take notes, try not to write down every word they say.
- Ask probing follow-up questions if their answers are not rich with useful information.
- Be prepared to fully explain your questions. They may ask, "What do you mean by that?" Or ''regarding what?''
- Do not go over the allotted time. Keep track of time and move through the questions so you get a broad base of information.
- Don't make the person feel like you expect them to find you a job or internship. This will sour any future possibilities of follow-up meetings and also jeopardize possible relationships with their company.
- Demonstrate you are being proactive with your intern/job search.
- Be prepared to discuss your own goals, experience and progress, if asked.
- Be sure to thank the person and follow-up with a thank you note.
- Leave a positive impression on this person because they might be of assistance to you again in the future.
- How did you come to pick this occupation?
- How did you get your start in this field?
- What is your typical day like?
- Is this position fairly typical, or is it different in any way based on the size of the company or in this particular industry?
- How has your occupation changed since you began? How will these changes affect someone like me who will be entering the field in the near future?
- What part of your job would you like to change?
- Where do you see the future of this occupation?
- In what ways does this occupation satisfy any personal interests you might have?
- If you were to develop a to-do list, what current skills would you like to upgrade and what new skills would you like to acquire?
- Do you belong to any professional organizations?
- What industry or professional publications do you recommend I follow?
- Would you mind doing a quick critique of my resume?
- Where do I need to improve myself to become a better candidate?
- How would you recommend I go about an effective search for a full-time position or internship for summer?
- Can you think of anyone else I should talk to? Would you mind if I used your name when I contact him/her?
- Send a thank you note as promptly as possible.
- Make notes of your conversation – this will help you write your thank you note and give you topics to refer to when you speak again.
- Keep in touch with your contact every few months through quick notes or emails to let them know of your new achievements or job search progress. After working so hard to build your network, you need to give it a little attention every once in awhile to ensure that it remains healthy.