The Tiger Career Advisors Network (TCAN) is comprised of Wittenberg alumni, parents, faculty and staff who have volunteered to share career and job search advice. Whether you are a student in need of career direction or an alum looking to make a career change, you'll want to connect with TCAN.
Interviews with TCAN contacts can generally be done in person, on the phone, or via e-mail. The TCAN contacts indicate a preference on their profile for how they want to be reached - make sure you honor their requests, and please remember that TCAN is not to be used to solicit jobs. The following tips and guidelines are provided to help your "informational interviews" go smoothly.
1. Be clear about why you are interested in gathering information and the type of information you want.
- "I'm investigating career possibilities in the health care field."
- "I've read about your career field but would like to talk with someone about what it's really like to work as a ________________."
2. Information interviews should not be used to "sell yourself" for a job.
3. If you're hesitant to request an interview out of concern that you'll be bothersome, keep in mind that people usually enjoy helping others, talking about themselves, and taking a break from the daily grind. Plus, the TCAN members want you to contact them - that's why they volunteered!Click here for a sample e-mail you could use to request an informational interview.
4. If the person you contact is unable to assist you, ask for the names of others you could contact in the same career field.
5. If you can't find someone to interview through the Tiger Career Advisors Network, consider using the following strategies to find contacts:
- Ask your friends, relatives, co-workers, course instructors, etc. if they know of people working in the fields that interest you.
- Use Google Groups - a great search engine for finding newsgroups that correspond with your occupational interests.
- Use the Associations Unlimited directory to identify professional associations that correspond with the fields that interest you. E-mail the contacts listed and ask for the names of a few members to interview. This directory is available through the collection of databases maintained on the Wittenberg Library web site.
You are encouraged to develop questions that will provide the specific information that you seek, and which reflect that you have done some amount of research about the interviewee's career field. Avoid asking questions that pertain to information you can easily find on the Internet or at the Wittenberg Career Center (e.g., starting salary averages, location of graduate programs). The following questions are provided as sample questions for you to consider.
- What types of experience are important?
- How did you prepare for this line of work?
- If you were starting out again, what would you do differently?
- Describe your typical work week.
- What skills or talents are essential for effective job performance?
- What are the toughest demands/problems you have to deal with?
- If you were to leave this kind of work, what factors would probably contribute to your decision?
- What do you enjoy the most about your job?
- How rapidly is this field growing? What areas do you feel promise the most growth?
- Does your work cut into your personal time? How so?
- How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, hours, vacation, etc.?
- In your opinion, what are the best companies to target during a job search?
- How did you get your job?
- How does one find out about job openings in this field? How are they advertised (e.g., newspapers, web sites, human resources department, word-of-mouth)?
- What kind of position could a college graduate anticipate when entering this field?
- What are the future prospects of this organization? Industry?
- Start and end the interview on time. Keep your agenda honest. If your stated purpose is to interview someone about his/her career field, do not change the agenda into a job interview for yourself. If the contact wants to turn the informational interview into a job interview, you have a couple of options. If you are prepared to talk about your interests and skills, you can accept the job interview and play it by ear. If you are not prepared, you can remind him/her of your purpose (to obtain information), and request that an interview be scheduled for a later date.
- After greeting the interviewee for an in-person interview, it is normal to make "small talk" for a few moments as this helps to break the ice. Typical small talk topics include mutual contacts, the office environment, or the weather. Limit this type of chit-chat to a minute or two; more than a few minutes will leave the interviewee feeling that you are wasting his/her time.
- Be prepared to take notes. Ask first if it's OK with your interviewee.
- Ask for at least one referral to someone else who can provide you with more information. Ask if you can use the interviewee's name when contacting the referral.
- Thank the interviewee for his/her time and comment on the helpfulness of the information shared.
1. Send a follow-up thank you note to the person you interviewed. A few lines expressing your appreciation is a thoughtful gesture and it will help the person to remember you should he/she learn about a resource that could help you (e.g., an internship opportunity).
2. You need to evaluate the information you have received. The following questions should help with the evaluation:
- What positive impressions do you have about the occupation? (Think in terms of your interests, skills, values, work style, and goals.)
- What negative impressions do you have?
- How does the information gained help you clarify your own career objective?
- What are your "next steps?" Who else do you need to talk? (Beware of relying too much on the views and advice of only one or two interviewees.)
3. Keep a record of your interviews. A record of names, titles, addresses, dates, and major points of discussion will make it easier should you need to get back in touch with your contacts.