Informational Interviews are There for the Asking

For students contemplating career direction, it can be hard to know how happy you’ll be in a new job or industry. Find out more about the career you are interested in by finding three to five people who are doing the kind of work you’re interested in. Contact them to set up informational interviews. If you don’t know anyone, find people through your parent’s friends and your friend’s parents or use social media (LinkedIn is the largest networking site).

Don’t feel timid about contacting someone. People are usually flattered when you ask for their opinions, and most enjoy talking about what they do. For college students, you can always offer to take the contact to lunch to sweeten the pot. If you are a high school student, arrange to meet them at their office or place of work and be prompt.

Before the meeting, prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask the interviewee. These may range from “What do you like most about your work?” to “What’s an average day like for you?” to “What does someone have to do to get ahead in your field?”

In the Career Coaching for Students program, we have a set of 18 interview questions you can use. We prepare the students by having a “guest” come in to be interviewed by the students. Having the students see first hand how simple and enjoyable the dialogue can be with a complete stranger prepares and motivates students to leverage this strategy. The pay back for moving outside your comfort zone to pursue and do informational interviews will be significant. You might even be offered the opportunity to job shadow for a day or land a summer job. Wouldn’t that be worth it.

Carl Nielson is an organizational development consultant, professional career and executive/leadership coach and creator of the nationally recognized program Career Coaching for Students™ . Career Coaching for Students is available as a district-wide high school program and in group and on-one-one offerings through certified career coaches throughout the United States, Canada and other countries. Contact Carl Nielson at or call 972-346-2892 to discuss specific needs. Or visit us at

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