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How Do I Find People to Interview?
Ask around: "Do you know anyone who's working in my field of interest who might
speak with me?" This is often called networking and it will be one of the most important
steps of your job search. The following are common sources of potential contacts:
- Professors, friends, family, neighbours—you might be surprised by who they know.
Extern Job Shadowing Program — shadow someone working in a career area for up
to a week.
- The Informational Interview Contacts binder.
- Related associations and company directories - available at the library reference
- Professional trade journals and newspapers - available in the Career Resource Library.
When calling your contact, explain that you are preparing to make some career decisions
by researching potential occupations. To leave a good impression be courteous, well
prepared and informed. Although you are not involved in an employment interview,
your interviewee could consider you for future opportunities, or pass your name
along to a colleague who is in a position to hire at a later date.
How to Prepare
It is crucial that you do basic research and draft some intelligent questions before
your meeting. The interviewee will not be impressed if you waste their time asking
simple questions that you could have answered from a book or the internet. It will
also give you control of the interview – your interviewee will expect you to be
specific about what you want to know.
1. Do your research
A little time spent doing company research and occupational research will help you to
structure your questions in a way to get the information you are looking for, and
make a good impression at the interview. Find out as much as you can about the career
area, related associations, conferences, trade fairs, and anything else that might
affect the industry such as political decisions and economic factors. Start with
the occupational binders and industry files in the Career Resource Library.
2. Prepare your questions
Start by brainstorming all the key points that you want information on – paying
particular attention to any key ideas not uncovered during your research.
Next, narrow the focus of your questions – most contacts have a very limited amount
of free time to speak to you. Ask open-ended questions, not ones that will elicit
simply a yes or no. Do not ask questions that are inappropriate (like "how
much do you make?") or are not career related. Finally, make sure you have
a legible copy of questions you want answered at the interview.
Here are some sample questions that you might consider asking, although you can
develop your own:
- How did you get into this field? What is your educational background? What is your
career path to your current position?
- How did you get your job? Do you know other methods that are useful in this field?
What are the typical entry level positions?
- Are there any courses, types of jobs, or volunteer positions you would recommend
as preparation for this field?
- Do you think this field is expanding or stable? Are there any significant changes
you can foresee regarding this industry?
- Can you give me a description of a typical day?
- What are the challenges and rewards of your position?
- What skills and qualities do I need to be successful?
- Are there associations in the field to contact or professional journals that you
- Whom else might I talk to for more information?
What to Do If You are Nervous
You are not alone – many people feel shy about doing interviews or even talking
to a potential contact over the phone. Here are some ideas to help overcome your
- practice interviewing someone you know
- have a friend read over your questions
- ask for suggestions from parents, family, friends
- set up a Career Talk appointment to meet with a counselor
While an informational interview is more formal than a regular conversation, it
is not as formal as a job interview. Most people actually enjoy talking about their
careers and are eager to help!
Things to Keep in Mind
- Pay attention to time during your interview – some employers are busy, and can only
talk for a specific amount of time
- Remember to thank the contact for their time
- Do not be disrespectful on the phone — keep in mind time constraints when deciding
how many questions to ask
- Do not ask to submit a resume — remember the purpose of this is to gain information.
However, if the employer requests, you can provide one