What is informational interviewing?

  • It can provide an insider's view of the field or market, assist you to learn about the accurate day-to-day aspects of a career, occupational field, and work environment; identify key organizations that match your interests, identify how organizations post employment vacancies in the field, help you learn of the valued skills of a desired position, and understand how you will be evaluated during an interview.
  • It is not a job interview. When handled appropriately, you can ask about how to locate and pursue employment opportunities or increase your marketability.

Who do you interview?

  • Anyone who you believe could provide you information about your field. This can include practitioners in your field, a friend, relative, or an alumnus who went through your program.

How to prepare for an informational interview:

  1. Send a formal letter, call, or email. Introduce yourself and provide information of how you learned of this individual. Request a time to talk either in person or on the phone. Attach or send your resume (for industry/government) or C.V. (for academia) as appropriate.
  2. Phone the individual or meet with them in person. The interview can last between 20 minutes to an hour.
  3. Send a thank you note within 24 hours stating your appreciation of their time and advice. It is best to send a hard copy, but email is okay if it is the only possibility.
  4. If you decide to pursue a career or employment as a result of the interview, it is important to email or call the individual with an update.

Example questions:

  • How did you get started within your position? What does your day consist of?
  • What is the most rewarding and/or toughest part of your position?
  • What types of employers hire in this field?
  • What kinds of skills are needed in your position?
  • What kind of educational preparation or training is needed for this position?
  • Do you recommend anyone else to speak with in this field? May I have permission to use your name when I contact them?
  • Do you recommend any professional societies to join? Journals to read?
  • Is there any other additional information that would be important for me to know about this field and/or position? Any further information that you feel you would have liked to have known before embarking in this field that would be important for me to know?

Four Reasons Not To Prepare Your Job Search Campaign

4. You are independently wealthy – Job? What Job?
3. People will just recognize your brilliance, and come offer you good jobs.
2. Things work out best for you when you “just wing it.”
1. You work best under last minute time pressure and high stakes.
To Get Started
  • Discuss career path options with your mentor, and program director.
  • Visit the Career Center
  • Spotlight Seminar Series: Two Monday noon sessions per month, as announced.

social media

25 Useful Phrases for Starting a Professional/Personal Conversation

Most of us can talk for hours about our favorite topics, but have you ever wondered how to start the conversation?

Conversation is the process of combining questions, listening, and self-disclosure so that two strangers can build a common ground.

Tips: Be attentive, be curious, and be sincere.


  1. Tell me about your lab/institution/company/school.
    (This way you get a general idea of how your might engage the person.)
  2. Tell me about your current role.
    (This helps you to understand the perspective of the person you are talking with.)
  3. Do you like what you are doing?
    (This gives you a measure of optimism in general.)
  4. What specifically do you love/like about your work?
    (This helps to understand the motivations of the person better.)
  5. What are some of the biggest challenges facing you right now?
    (This helps you to see how you might help address some of the top challenges.)
  6. What are you passionate about? (This is a personal favorite question!)
    (Notice if you are given a work/school response or personal life response. This is just to get to know the person a little better and perhaps give you something to build common ground.)
  7. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
    (This is just to get to know the person a little better and help build common ground.)

At an event:

  1. I didn’t expect so many people to be here, you?
    (This is simply small talk; you’ll need some back‐up ideas if this is a non‐starter.)
  2. The first speaker had some interesting ideas, what did you think?
  3. This event has been great so far for me, how about for you?
  4. I am so glad I finally got the chance to come here. This is my first time. You?
  5. Which workshop/speaker have you found the most interesting/helpful?
  6. This session is really crowded. What made you decide to choose this session?

Compliment Approach:

(However, it is critical that you are sincere.)

  1. That book bag/backpack looks really sturdy…you like it?
  2. I read your abstract/paper/website/blog—really interesting. Can you tell me more about…
  3. Heard about your new position, congratulations…what do you think will be your biggest challenges?
  4. Great (watch/tie/shoes/scarf/jewelry). I bet there’s a story behind that. Where did you find?

Advice Approach:

  1. Which one (food/drink/session/etc.) do you suggest?
  2. Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
  3. What do you think about X (fill in anything relevant)?

Popular Culture Approach:

  1. What do you think about social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, BioCrowd?
  2. What do you think about Twitter (or Plurk, or . . . .)?
  3. What is your favorite/newest “app?”
  4. Are you a Limitless fan? Walking Dead/Breaking Bad/Game of Thrones fan? Do you like the show, “Big Bang Theory?”
  5. What do you think might be the next big technology break-through?