Conducting an informational interview with a professional is a great way to gain insight into a career field while also building an important connection.
Important Do's and Don'ts
- Although ideal to meet with the mentor in person, if the mentor is unable to due to schedule or location, speaking with them via the phone is perfectly fine.
- The amount and form of interaction is decided by the mentor and mentee. It is the quality of the relationship, not the quantity of time spent that determines the success of the mentoring relationship.
- You may feel awkward when you start to contact alumni. Keep in mind that most professionals remember what it’s like to begin and build a career.
- Alumni are still strangers, use the same precautions when meeting them as you would if you were meeting a stranger.
- Act professionally. You should act in the same manner as you would if you were in a real job interview!
- Be respectful. The interviewer has agreed to help and answer your questions. They are taking time out of their day, so make sure to be mindful of that and act respectfully at all times.
- Never ask if the interviewer knows of a job for you, or could refer you to someone else who does.
How can I conduct an informational interview?
- If you haven’t already, create a LinkedIn profile. Having a LinkedIn profile is a great way to connect with employers, build your network, gain career advice, and learn about new opportunities.
- Visit the Brooklyn College Alumni LinkedIn page.
- In the search bar, type in a field that is of interest to you. For example, if you are looking to learn more about a career in investment and finance, type in “banking,” and then “finance.” This will give you access to Brooklyn College alumni who are currently in this particular field.
- Connect! Request to connect with the alum, but do not send the automated response. Instead, write a short statement explaining why you are interested in conducting an informational interview with them.
If you have acquired the email address of an alum you are interested in speaking to, send them a professional email. We also have templates you can use when contacting/emailing them.
Making the Initial Contact
- Before making your initial contact, clarify what information it is that you would like from them.
- It is best to make your initial contact through a short email message. Don’t flood the alumnus/alumna with questions at this point, but indicate the general areas you’d like information about and ask if you could set up a time to speak either in person or by phone.
- When asking to speak/meet with them be respectful of their time and availability limits. Be flexible should they need to reschedule or their availability is limited. Make the process as convenient as possible for the mentor.
- When contacting them via email, review what you write carefully and use the sample email for help. Summarize your future goals in 2-3 sentences to give the alumnus/a a better understanding of your needs and desires.
- It is essential and your responsibility to follow up with alumni and respond to their emails within a few days. It is inconsiderate and unprofessional to not respond. This is probably the biggest complaint we hear. If you are too busy to respond in length, minimally respond saying you will get back to them by... (And then make sure you do)
Before Your Meeting
- Research the career/industry/company beforehand so you are better prepared and can maximize how you use your mentor.
- Think about what you are hoping to gain from the conversation, and prepare a list of questions.
- When you write them back to confirm when you will be talking, include a few questions you plan to ask to help them prepare ahead of time. Your questions can range from learning about a career field, researching an organization, or searching for job opportunities. Write down or print your list of questions to bring to the meeting.
- Contact the alumna/alumnus 1-2 days prior to the meeting to confirm the meeting time and/or place. Let them know you look forward to meeting them.
- Although you should be arriving on time, get their direct phone number just in case you are running late due to an emergency and give them your cell phone number.
- Bring your resume. Sometimes the contact may ask for it or you can offer to leave it behind for the person's reference.
- Prepare your attire. Dress in business casual attire (no sneakers, jeans, t-shirts etc).
- Write down some thoughts on what you would say, if they say tell me about yourself.
During Your Meeting
- Plan to arrive about 15 minutes ahead of the actual scheduled time, if in person or 5 minutes before if meeting online. DO NOT BE LATE.
- Bring your list of questions with you
- Have a pen and pad handy and ask them if it would be okay for you to take notes. Most people would think what they are saying is not valuable if you are not jotting it down.
- Bring your resume and list of questions with you
- Always be attentive and pleasant.
- Tips when connecting via the phone or online
- Have a good connection
- If connecting via Zoom, Google Meet etc, test your camera, microphone, connection etc. at least 15 minutes before.
- Make sure you are in a quiet place where you can give them your undivided attention.
- Write up a brief script about what you are going to say when you call.
- Always ask, at the end of the Informational Interview, for any suggested resources and if the interviewer would be willing to give you the names and email addresses of one or two colleagues or friends who would also be willing to share his or her experiences and information with you.
- This will expand your network quickly.
- Ask them if it would be okay for you to follow up with them in the future if you had any questions.
After the Meeting
- Take time to reflect on what you have learned. Have you obtained the information you were seeking?
- Send a thank you letter expressing your appreciation. It’s important to show to the interviewer that you are thankful for their time and advice. Follow up with them after your interview, express your gratitude, and make sure to keep in touch.
- Make notes after the interview for future reference. Record the contact information of the person you met with. Keep this information on file.
- Keep in touch from time to time informing them of your career developments. This is an integral part of developing a life-long network in which both you and your contacts are familiar with each other and can call upon one another when the need arises.