Informational interviews

Students get the opportunity to take interviews while in school for school magazine or a newsletter report, but by and large this opportunity is restricted to only a select few, unless or until it is part of an academic assignment.

In high school as students prepare for their college admissions, and attend college or career fairs, many students find it difficult to articulate their questions so that they can get the information they require. They face the same challenge as they prepare to take interviews for their extended essays or internal assessments.

Taking informational interviews help students get the information they need if the interview has been conducted effectively. Some points to keep in mind:

Be clear about why you would like to take the interview. Send a formal request to the person whose interview you would like to take. If required share the letter from school that states, the purpose of the interview and its academic relevance to your research. In case you do not receive a response to your request for the interview, write a second time. Every request may not get accepted so that is fine.

If you intend to meet with the college admission officer at the career fair, then be prepared with a list of questions that you would like to ask and take down notes.

Before you request for informational interview, it is important that you do your own independent research. Whether it is meeting with university admission officer or a marketing manager of a firm from whom you need some specific information for your research project. Gathering information beforehand will help you in your preparation and think of some important and relevant questions to ask giving you a chance to hold an effective conversation. Get the basic information that may be already available in brochures, website etc. Your questions should be an attempt to dig deeper, get clarifications to develop better understanding.

Be prepared with the questions that you wish to ask. It may be a good idea to share your questions in advance with the interviewee. Your questions should be open-ended and should help you get the perspective of the interviewee. Respect the time that was agreed upon. Reach on time and finish the interview on time.

Prepare your elevator pitch to introduce yourself when you meet.  Elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech of 20 to 30 seconds that explains your purpose or idea or yourself. This is an important skill that you should develop because you may need to use this in many situations.

While informational interviews on one hand help you explore and learn, they also help you build your credibility and form connections. So, as an interviewer be prepared, responsive, alert and a good listener.

When you finally arrive for the interview, be an active listener. Active listening strategies would be listening attentively, not interrupting the interviewee, paraphrasing an important point that you hear to ensure that you understood what was said and asking clarifying questions if you did not understand something. We communicate more through our body language. So remember to sit straight, not slouch or be fidgety maintaining eye contact and

At the end, do not forget to thank the interviewee for their time. Send a thank you email appreciating the new learning that you received and keep the interviewee posted about any development post the interview that may have happened because of what you learnt during the interview. You can read more about informational interview’s  here.

Taking an informational interview is a skill.

Skills are easy to learn.  But with effort and practice.


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