A potential interviewee can be found in many ways. Try to think of people you may know who have business or other contacts. Even without an easy connection, do not be afraid to contact a complete stranger. Most people are more than happy to share information about their field of choice. If you happen to run across someone who is unwilling to help, simply thank them for their time and move on to another person. The following list of potential resources may help you identify an appropriate person to interview.
Preparation is the key to conducting a successful informational interview. The steps listed below will help you arrange an appointment and plan an effective interview.
Before you call someone, practice what you are going to say. This step in your preparation will allow you to be more relaxed when you place your call and increase the likelihood that you will get cooperation from the person you call.
Hello (Dr., Ms., Mr.) ________. My name is ________. I'm currently a student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville majoring in _______. I am really curious to find out more about ____________ and I'm wondering if you might be able to spend 10 minutes answering a few questions (if you are doing this in person, at this time you would arrange an appointment to meet). I assure you, I am not currently looking for a job and I will take up as little of your time as possible. **(If person hesitates or says that they are busy) If I've reached you at an inconvenient moment, could we schedule a time when I can call you back?
This is only a suggested format. Add or subtract anything you want from the example or use your own entirely. The main goal is to have something to quickly let the person know who you are, what you are wanting, and that you do not intend to take up much of their time.
There will be times that you are turned down when you request an appointment to speak with a potential contact. Don't take the refusal personally, and don't get discouraged. Use any refusal as a learning tool. Go back over the conversation to see if you can improve your preparation, strategy, or presentation. Then try the next name on your list. In the long run you will have plenty of favorable replies. Note - If you find yourself playing a lot of telephone tag, you might consider writing a letter to introduce yourself and ask for the help which you are seeking.
The informational interview does not end when you say good-bye. To maintain a professional contact, and to begin developing your networking skills, send a short thank you note or letter to the person you interviewed. A little courtesy and professionalism goes a long way!