Cornell University

Conduct Information Interviews

Information interviewing is a specific networking tool for learning firsthand about a career path, employer, industry, or other career information. It is the process of conducting exploratory conversations with those in your career network who can give you career advice and introduce you to others who can help you define your goals. Unlike a job interview, an information interview should be a low-stress situation where you decide whom to interview, what questions to ask, and how to evaluate what you learn. 

Information interviewing helps to achieve several goals:

  • Gather information to determine whether or not a potential career or company is a good match for your skills and interests.
  • Make a lasting impression and develop long-term relationships.
  • Obtain referrals (contacts or opportunities), follow through on advice, and stay in touch.

Arrange the Meeting

Review your list of networking contacts to find people who represent a range of experiences and viewpoints, and whom you would like to meet by phone or in person. Call or write to arrange an conversation with your . If you set up a meeting by telephone, prepare a brief script saying who you are, how you identified him/her, why you are calling, and when you would like to meet. When writing, develop the introduction, reason for writing, and specify when you will call to arrange a visit (usually within one week). Make it clear that you are asking for information, not for a job.

If you have been referred by someone, state that person's name early in the telephone call or letter. Always indicate a substantive link between you and the individual, e.g., a Cornellian who shares a similar academic major, someone you have heard speak recently, or a professional with a shared enthusiasm for an issue. Be prepared to ask your questions when you call; they may want to talk right away.

Sample introduction

Hello, Mr. Smith. My name is Patricia Law, and I am a classmate of your son, Mike. He suggested that I give you a call. I am considering public relations as a career, and I’m trying to learn more about the field and the types of opportunities that may be available. Mike told me that you work for the public relations firm of Ezra and White and have a great deal of experience in PR. Might you have 20-30 minutes to meet with me at your convenience?

Do not send a resume before the meeting, but always carry a copy with you in case your host requests one. Be sure that you have reviewed your resume in career services before you hand it out.

Prepare for the Meeting

You want to gain useful information and also to give a favorable impression of yourself when you meet for information interviews. Research your contact's career field, industry, and organization in order to prepare informed questions. Anyone can become an effective networker and enjoy the process provided they're willing to invest a little time and energy.

Organize your questions in advance so you can facilitate the meeting in a professional way. The key is to ask questions that the person you are interviewing can easily answer. For instance, if you’re concerned about whether you will be successful as an investment analyst, ask instead a general question such as "What skills, work experience, and educational background are necessary for success as a financial analyst?"

Follow Up

After the interview, write a brief note thanking the individual for his or her time, stating what information you gained and how you will use it. Once you’re in an actual job search, keep your network contacts updated on your progress so they will remember you if an opportunity arises. After accepting a position, stay in touch with your contacts to keep the door open for future career networking and exchanges of professional information.