Requesting an informational interview

Over the weekend, I helped a friend interested in counseling contact North Carolina psychologists for informational interviews. (If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, check out this article — they’re a great way to network and get information a career path you’re interested in.)

We started by Googling for sample informational interview requests. There are lots of samples to be had — here, here and here are some — but none of them resonated with us. They all sounded too stilted and formal — “I would be pleased to speak with you…” sounds like it’s from a Dickens novel, not a college student.

If I were a busy professional, I’d appreciate the deferential tone and respect, but I’d also like to know that I’m talking to a human with a distinct personality, not a robotic student, or worse yet, a sales person.

Many of the samples and guidelines recommend including your resume and a phrase stating that you’ll call the person within a certain timeframe to finalize the meeting. My friend felt, and I agree, that asking for an informational interview isn’t a sales call. Just because you ask for the interview doesn’t mean the person is willing to talk with you or wants you to follow up. Maybe I’m not aggressive enough, but it seems overzealous to include that kind of language.

The opinions were more mixed on including a resume, but I think it’s presumptuous, and makes you look like you’re angling for a job. It’s one thing to bring your resume to the informational interview, but it’s another to include it in the initial invitation.

So after all our research, my friend crafted a request that is a little less pushy and a little more human than most of the samples you’ll see:

Subject: Informational interview request from UNC-Chapel Hill student

Hi ______,

I’m a senior psychology and Spanish double major at UNC-Chapel Hill interested in a career in counseling. I’m looking into grad schools, but I’m not sure which program is best for me. I’d love to talk with you about your career and experience in the field. The kinds of questions I have include:

  • What is a typical day like for you?
  • Are there multiple paths to get to a career like yours?
  • What are some of the qualities that a successful psychologist should have?

If you’d be comfortable answering those kind of questions, please let me know, and we can figure out a time to get together. I’m happy to meet in person, or talk by phone or e-mail — whatever is easiest for you. Thanks for your time!

My friend sent four requests and has received two positive replies so far (no negative). What do you think — is this a good approach, or is it too passive? Do you think your language and tone should depend as much on the field (psychology is more laid back than say, investment banking) as it does on convention? Share your thoughts in the comments!


3 responses to “Requesting an informational interview

  1. Sarah, Career Advisor

    I think that informational interviews are a great approach to learning more about an industry. Most people have a desire to help others and enjoy talking with students about their work.

    A student recently told me that the informational interview that she conducted was just what she needed to land an internship.

    The student visited the interviewer’s office and he offered her general tips about the profession. Then, when she tried to find a job in that same industry (but with a different employer), she used the tips that had been provided during the interview. She used the insider’s advice that she had received one person to land an internship with another!

    Best of luck to you, readers.

  2. tarheelsintransit

    That’s such a great story! Most people don’t talk about the kind of “inside information” you can get from an informational interview, but it’s so true. Thanks for sharing and reading, Sarah 🙂

  3. Pingback: Your resume is not the problem | tsuch dot net

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