SPRB’s Career Help 101 Series continues today as we discuss the importance of informational interviews and why you should do them if you’re a student, job seeker, or interested in changing professions.
What is an informational interview?
It’s a way for you to learn from someone with firsthand knowledge about the industry. It is not a place for you to hand over a resume and ask for a job or ask about any open positions. Think of it as a research opportunity — it’s simply a networking technique that lets you grasp a better understanding about the industry and/or company you want to work with.
It may help you with a job search as you make more connections, but please do not think of it as an equivalent to a job interview because it’s not. That being said, I would bring a copy of your resume in case they ask for it. You can bring it up, but only to ask for advice on how to improve the resume (either with the text/design of the resume or by work experiences you should gain).
You can do an informational interview over the phone or in person, but unlike a job interview you are the one primarily asking questions.
Why should you do an informational interview?
- Provides you with more information about your interested career field and helps you confirm that this is what you want to do
- Lets you know the types of qualifications and responsibilities that come with jobs in that particular aspect of the industry
- Builds your network and allows you to make connections with someone in the field
- Bolsters your self-confidence when it comes to interviews because it gives you a chance to interact with someone on an interview level without having to worry about getting a job or not
How do I get an informational interview?
As I’ve mentioned before, do your research. Do a self-assessment and make sure that this is a field of interest to you as informational interviews can help you decide if it sounds like a good career fit or not. Consider what organizations you would like to work for and what specific department/field you are most interested in. Research the contact information for an individual who fits that criteria.
I would encourage conducting multiple interviews ranging from someone at your dream organization to other choices. Let’s say your dream job is to work in the PR department for the Boston Red Sox. Try and set up an informational interview with someone working in that department, but also look into doing interviews with PR professionals working with their minor league affiliates. While you want to understand what a job is like working in the big leagues, PR practitioners in the minor leagues have greater range of job responsibilities and can give you a great idea of what skills and knowledge are essential for a career in baseball sports PR.
Once you’ve figured out who you’re interested in talking to, give them a call or drop them an e-mail. Introduce yourself and explain why you’d like to talk to them. Here’s a couple brief examples:
Hi, my name is __ and I’m a student at __, studying __. I would like to work in the sports PR field when I graduate, but wanted to talk to someone to see if I’m on the right track and to learn more about their position. I know you’ve spent __ years with this organization/in this field and would love to ask you some questions about sports PR from someone who really understands the industry.
Hi, my name is ___ and ___ (a shared acquaintance) suggested that I talk to you about the sports PR field. I’m considering a career in sports PR, but wanted to talk to someone who is currently working in the field. I know you’ve spent __ years in the industry and I thought you would be a great person to talk to. Would you be willing to talk to me about sports PR?
Quintessential Careers has a great guide on how to go about setting up an informational interview to how to prepare and what to wear. The New York Times has a few things to keep in mind before heading into the informational interview.
So what kind of questions should you ask?
Any of the interviews I have posted on Sports PR Blog have been short informational interviews so you can read through some of my past interviews to see what kind of questions I asked. If you sit down with someone, you’ll likely have more time to ask questions but make sure you ask the questions you most want answered first in case you run out of time.
Here are some sample questions to ask someone in the sports industry, particularly PR:
- How did you get your current position? What helped prepare you for this position (e.g. courses, past work experiences, etc.)?
- How do people usually break into this field? What is a typical career path in this field or organization? (via Quintessential Careers)
- What’s an average day like for you?
- What responsibilities do you have?
- What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job? Challenging?
- What characteristics are especially important for a career in sports PR (e.g. strong work ethic, attention to detail, passion, organization skills, etc.)?
- What are some of the biggest challenges facing your company and your industry today? (via New York Times)
- If I wanted to get a full-time position in sports PR, what type of work experiences and skills do I need to have to succeed in my job search?
- Is there a high level of turnover in this field? Do organizations in this field tend to promote from within or look outside?
- What is your organization’s policy with regards to bloggers and other new media outlets? Why is it that way? Do you see it changing over the next 5-10 years?
- Where do you see yourself in the next five years? If you were to get promoted, what would you be doing?
- What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field? (via Quintessential Careers)
Here are 200 other great questions to ask in an informational interview.
After the Interview
Please please please send them a thank-you note either handwritten or by e-mail. They took the time out of their busy schedule to help you out and you need to show them that you appreciate their help.