What is an Information/Advice Interview and how to set one up?

Are you trying to get past the statistic that says that 85% of available jobs are never advertised? Are you new in the workforce and don’t have a network of contacts?

Then add advice or information interviews to your job search strategies

What Are They?

Advice or information interviews are meetings with individuals working in a field you want to enter. This isn’t the time to ask about employment, all you want is information. Information interviews may be conducted via email, telephone, or face-to-face. A face-to-face meeting is the best option.

Advice or information interviews can help you to…

  • Learn about your career field and the skills needed to do that job effectively. You can gain a perspective that goes beyond job titles and helps you to see the skills required for a job and how you might contribute.
  • Make personal contacts among management-level personnel.
  • Gain insight into the hidden job market (opportunities that are not advertised).
  • Become aware of the needs of the employers. This not only provides personal understanding but it could also result in your becoming a more impressive job candidate.
  • Gain confidence in talking with people. Informational interviewing provides an opportunity to meet with potential employers before the more stressful (for both parties) job interview. Because you are only asking for information, you are in control of the interview; you decide which questions to ask.


To arrange an information or advice interview…

Step 1
Identify the occupation or industry you wish to learn about using what you know about your interests, values, and skills, labour conditions and trends.

Step 2
Prepare for the interview. Read all you can about the field so you’ll be able to ask intelligent questions about the occupations and industries. Decide what you need to know. The day before the interview, call to confirm your appointment.

Step 3
Identify people to interview. Start with those you already know. Professional organizations, business directories, LinkedIn and your career centre or alumni office (if you are a student or recent grad) may also help. You could also call a company and ask for the name of the person by title.

Step 4
Arrange the interview using email or phone.  In your email be straightforward; tell him/her you are asking for information and advice. The last paragraph should always include a sentence about how you will follow up -usually a phone call. Never expect the person to phone you. Proofread all communication and save copies!

Step 5
Conduct the interview. Dress appropriately, be polite and professional. Bring a notebook and pen, a prepared list of questions and your resume. Try to find out about specific characteristics or qualifications that employers seek when hiring. If it seems appropriate, you may ask for a brief resume critique. Before leaving, ask for a business card and suggestions for others you may interview. Ask permission to use your contact’s name.

Step 6
Follow up. Immediately after the interview, make notes. Keep a list of all the people you have interviewed and what you’ve learned. Send a thank-you email. Let the contact know how they were helpful and thank them for their time. Ask the person to keep you in mind if they come across any other information that may be helpful to you in your career research. Include your address, email or phone number under your signature. Keep your contacts updated on your progress, especially once you begin your new job.

Some people prefer to begin with a phone call. It may help to write out a “script” that you would be comfortable saying. Practice your “script” ahead of time. Try it out on a family member or friend. Make sure you identify yourself and why you’re calling. Let the person know that you need only 10 or 15 minutes of his/her time.

Approach A
“Hello, my name is____________, and I understand that you are a (or work as a) __________________. I’m graduating this year and hoping to work in a related field. I’m, calling to ask if we could meet for 10 or 15 minutes to find out more about what you do.”

Approach B
“Hello, my name is ____________. A mutual acquaintance, __________________, suggested I give you a call. He/she said you would be the right person to talk to about working in your career field (occupation). Would it be possible for us to meet? I only need about 15 minutes of your time.”

Approach C
“Hello, my name is ________________________. I ’m conducting career research in your field. I would like to meet and talk with you for about 15 minutes so that I can find out more about your field of expertise.”

Approach D:
“Hi, my name is ______________________ and I ’m a student at ___________ University. I got your name from ________________. You’re in a line of work that I’m interested in, and I was hoping that you could answer some of my questions about your profession in a 15-20 minute informational interview.”

Questions related to your job search…

  1. What is the basic education/ training/ experience required for entry-level jobs?
  2. Can you suggest some ways a new grad could obtain experience?
  3. If you were in my position, what would you do to get your career started?
  4. What other kinds of organizations hire people to perform the functions you do here?
  5. If you feel comfortable and it seems appropriate -Would you mind taking a copy of my resume?

 Questions specific to the company…

  1. What are the main challenges facing XZE?
  2. How would you describe your corporate culture?
  3. What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful here?
  4. What’s the best thing about working for ______________?
  5. What’s the outlook like for__________________?
  6. When you need new staff how do you advertise and recruit?
  7. What characteristics do you look for when you’re hiring?
  8. With what you know about my education and background, would I be a good candidate for a new hire? (This may be a bit too strong)

 Questions you may want to ask about the field or occupation…

  1. What are the major trends that are happening or that you expect to happen?
  2. How do you see jobs in ______ changing?
  3. From your perspective, what are the main challenges to working in this field?
  4. For someone who wants to be a _______________ what are the entry-level positions called?
  5. What is a typical career path in this field or organization?
  6. Could you offer any input on salary ranges for new grads?
  7. Are there specific associations that I should join, or professional journals that I should be reading?
  8. What do people working as a ___________ do here?
  9. What training or education is required for this work?
  10. Is there a demand for _________________?
  11. What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field/company?
  12. What advice would you offer a person entering this field?
  13. From your perspective, what are the problems you see working in this field?
  14. In your opinion is the employment outlook for ________stronger in another city?
  15. Is there anyone else you would suggest that I speak to, either within this organization or in another company? Do you know of other people whom I might talk to who have similar jobs?

 Questions to ask yourself…

  1. What did I learn from this interview (both positive and negative impressions)?
  2. How does what I learned fit with my own interests, abilities, goals, values, etc.?
  3. What do I still need to know?
  4. What plan of action can I make?
  5. Who else can I speak with?
  6. How does this new information impact on my decision to work in this company or occupation?

 Things to consider…

  • If you ask for 15-20 minutes of a person’s time, don’t exceed that time.
  • Don’t settle for just one or two interviews about a given area of work. You need a variety of perspectives.
  • Avoid impressions about an area of work based solely on whether you liked the person and his/her surroundings.
  • When in an interview, ask what you want to know but let the person talk because you might discover and learn more.
  • Find out if the interviewer has any insight on the qualifications necessary for a position such as the one you are discussing.
  • Talking with people doesn’t have to be a formal process. Chat with people casually. Most people enjoy talking about what they do and you can learn a lot.
  • Remember to send thank you letters, notes or email. Keep your contacts up to date about your progress, especially once you get that first job.
  • When you’re more established in your career, make time for others when they ask for your help.

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