Informational interviews

Overview

Informational interviews are a common and effective networking strategy. They allow you to talk with people in the working world to better understand an occupation or industry you’re interested in.

By connecting with people who do work that interests you, you can:

  • Learn more about your career options.
  • Access specialized information.
  • Fast-track the answers to some of your career questions.
  • Open the door to opportunities like internships, volunteer roles, summer jobs, and paid work experience.
  • Confirm information you have already gathered from the Internet, books, articles, courses, or other resources.

Finding people to interview

Use your connections at UBC

In addition to the many opportunities to connect with employers at the Centre for Student Involvement & Careers, your department or Faculty may host events with employers and alumni.Your professors and peers are also great resources and may be able to introduce you to people working in fields of interest to you.

LinkedIn is another great resource to find people that can help support your career development. Use their UBC alumni tool to sort through over 200,000 profiles of people that already have at least one thing in common with you—they also went to UBC! Watch the YouTube tutorial video for how to connect to UBC alumni through LinkedIn.

Get out into the world

Reach out on LinkedIn or Twitter, or go to lectures or events and participate in discussions. You may also want to identify professional associations that hold networking events. Use the Your Degree online resource to find a list of professional associations for your specific program.

Family members and other important members of your community may also have experience and insights to help you make decisions. Additionally, they may have friends and colleagues they can introduce you to, whether to learn about your career options or get information about a particular field of work.

Reach out to your past supervisors and collaborators

All the people in your life have their own existing networks. Make sure they know what you are looking for and ask them if they have any suggestions for who you could talk to and how to learn more about your career options.

Structuring your interview

An important element of informational interviews is the process of asking questions, but there are also many unwritten social rules to pay attention to. Below are a few ideas to help you plan for your meeting. 

Starting the conversation

Take time to settle into the conversation by building rapport with the person you are meeting. Ask them how their day has been, or what they have been focusing on lately. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you and express your appreciation for this opportunity to learn. 

Continuing the conversation

Once you and your interviewee are settled and have had the chance to greet each other, begin to ask your prepared questions. Be flexible, you may not have time to get to them all. Ask questions that are going to help you gain the information and insights you are looking for. 

Below are some example questions:

  • What do you find is most interesting or exciting about your work? 
  • How has your field (or organization) changed since you started working?
  • What trends are impacting your field right now?
  • How has COVID-19 impacted your work?
  • Where do you predict your field (or work) going in the future?
  • What is the work culture like in your industry?
  • What does an average week or month look like in your role?
  • What would entry-level work in this field look like? How do you advance? What does the typical career path look like?
  • What skills do you recommend I develop now so that I can be successful in this field? 
  • What experiences should I gain now in order to set me up for an entry-level role in your field?
  • How does your workplace (or industry) approach equity, diversity and inclusion?
  • Are there leaders in your field that come from historically marginalized groups,or that are a person of colour, queer, Indigenous, or another identity?
  • Who do you work closely with, or communicate with regularly?Who else would you recommend I I talk to?
  • What resources (such as websites, industry associations, or organizations) should I research?
  • What is the most effective way to stay connected to current events and news particular to your industry?
  • Is graduate school necessary to prepare for or advance in this career? If so, which programs do you recommend?

Closing the conversation

Try to be aware of the time. If you notice time is passing quickly and you still have more questions, check-in with your interviewee about their schedule. They might be able to meet again or stay a little longer. 

As you approach the end of your meeting, take a moment to thank your interviewee for their time. Let them know what stood out to you about what they shared and ask them if they have advice for what you should do next. This can also be targeted more specifically to your goals. For example, you could ask for tips about how to find a summer job in the field, if they know of any companies that are hiring, or for a recommendation about other people or resources you should connect with.

Tips for success

  • Assume that people in the working world are willing to talk to you. You may think otherwise, but most people will be supportive if you show genuine interest in learning from them. 
  • Don’t confuse it with a job interview. Be clear with the interviewee that you’re only looking for information. Don’t be afraid to mention skills or experiences that led you to this field, but don’t try to persuade the interviewee for opportunities.
  • Leave with 2 ideas to move forward, such as people to talk to next, organizations you could volunteer with, and websites you haven’t seen before.
  • Be respectful of their time. Say thank you and follow up with an appreciative email or note on whatever platform you last communicated.

Additional resources

  • Ten Thousand Coffees
    Create a free profile on The UBC Hub to join this mentoring platform. It connects you with staff, faculty, students and alumni from UBC that are open to meeting up to share skills and knowledge.
  • 50 Ways to Get a Job
    Check out these guides to finding work that are personalized to you based on where you’re at in your job search.
  • Glassdoor
    Search jobs and get the inside scoop on companies through anonymous reviews left by current and former employees.
  • Networking and professional relationships
    Learn how to build mutually beneficial professional relationships that can lead to new opportunities 
  • How to effectively use LinkedIn
    Learn how to connect with UBC alumni or industry professionals on this popular online platform.
  • LinkedIn Learning
    As a UBC student, you have free full access to this online resource that offers courses focused on technical skills and professional development. Use it to learn workplace skills that will make you more employable.

Career events and workshops

Whether you're looking to improve your job applications or find resources to help you develop your career, UBC has events and workshops to support you.

If you have questions