Career Center

Informational Interviewing

In contrast to the conventional job interview, the information interview is not part of the candidate selection process.  It is an opportunity to:

  • enhance your knowledge of career options and job opportunities in a sector or field in which you think you could contribute
  • build a network of contacts to help you find your next position.  This purpose requires you to develop a different strategy to get invited for an information interview

Tips for reaching out to potential contacts

  • Keep it short: usually less than 150 words
  • Emphasize learning: don’t directly ask for a job or a favor (resume review) if you don’t know them
  • Be specific: out of all of the people in the world—why do you want to talk to them as an individual?
  • Remind: If they don’t respond after seven business days, reply to your first message with a friendly nudge that you’re interested in talking with them. After another seven business days, you can try one more time, but after that you should move on to other contacts
  • Arrange a meeting, phone call, or video chat: building rapport is harder if you just ask your questions in an email
  • Send a thank you email within 24 hours: include what details were the most helpful and/or interesting for you and what your next steps will be

Sample Informational Interview Request (Email)

Dear Ms. Park,

I saw on LinkedIn that you are a Duke alum who is now working at the NC Museum of Art. I’m a current Duke student, and I’m interested in learning about careers combining technology and the arts. I’d like the opportunity to talk with you about your experiences after Duke and how you prepared yourself for your current position.

Would you have 20 minutes next week to meet in person, talk on the phone, or video chat? I am available Monday at noon and Wednesday after 4pm.


Anthony Student


Sample Thank You Note (Email and/or Handwritten Note)

Dear Ms. Park,

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me yesterday. I enjoyed our conversation, and I was particularly excited to learn about the flexibility that employees at your company have when choosing projects. I’m going to reach out to your colleague, Mr. Hadad, to learn more about the different roles on his project management team.

Kind Regards,

Anthony Student


Informational Interviewing Q & A

Q:      Why should I spend time interviewing advisors or employees/employers if there are no job openings in that workplace?
A:      You want to choose a career or make a job change that invigorates and fulfills you in an organization that will value your contribution.  Talking to experienced people about their education, experience, work activities and working conditions will help you make a wise career decision.  Further, you may want to be remembered should an appropriate position open up weeks or months after your information interview. You may want to be referred should a position open up in another location or in an organization with similar services or products.

Q:      How should I introduce myself on the phone or in an email?
A:      Explain briefly how you got the name of your potential career advisor, who you are and what you want to learn from the interview.  Emphasize that you want information because insiders can help you assess whether you could contribute to the field or organizations you are interested in.  Ask for an appointment or schedule a later telephone interview.

Q:      How should I prepare for an information interview?
A:      Find out all you can about the career field and organization of the person you are interviewing.  Research the outlook for that career.  Know as much as possible about the organization's leadership, structure, mission, agenda, successes, and future projects/prospects so that you can ask questions that demonstrate your interest.  After you secure an appointment to see or call your advisor, confirm the time and purpose just beforehand.

Q:      What questions should I ask my advisor in the interview?
A:      Here is a basic set of questions you can expand on

  • How does an individual get started in this employment sector/field/career?
  • Will I need more formal training to apply for positions in this field?  What organizations provide training on the job?
  • What do you like most/least about your work?
  • What qualities and skills are needed? What are the possibilities for advancement?
  • What new developments are expected in the field in the next 3-5 years?
  • What do you read to keep informed of events, issues, and openings in your field?
  • Can you refer me to others who would be willing to provide information?

Q:       What should I say further about my goals?
A:        Summarize your education, specific work experience and skills, past accomplishments and work style.  If your advisor seems open to providing career counseling, find out whether the generic skills you have are transferable into the career sector and job categories of your advisor's career/organization.  Suggest the kind of position you would like to find and ask about appropriate job titles.  Don't leave a copy of your resume unless you're invited to.

Q:        How should I follow up an information interview?
A:        Send a thank you letter or email mentioning some of the topics discussed during the interview and adding new insight about your career search/job search.  If your advisor has shown interest in your progress, send brief updates.  When you obtain a position, write to thank your advisor for his or her contribution to your career development.