Assignment 2: Informational Interview
Deliverables (combine these into one document)
- A 2-3 page, single-spaced report about your interview, written in memo format
- An APA-style reference list
- A list of interview questions
- A copy of the thank you note sent to the interviewee
- Learn to identify appropriate sources of career information.
- Gain experience contacting and persuading a professional to meet with you.
- Expand your knowledge of your profession and industry.
- Practice active listening in an interview setting.
- Learn how to synthesize and organize relevant information.
- Correctly use the professional memo format.
The first 2-3 pages of your assignment is formatted as a memo to your professor and typed single-spaced. The memo should include the following sections (each under its own heading):
- Your Professional Goals and the Purpose of the Interview (1 paragraph): Briefly describe your career interests and 2-3 career goals and then explain why this interviewee is relevant to those goals.
- Biography of Interviewee (1-2 paragraphs): Sum up the interviewee’s professional biography, including his/her education, professional background, current title and responsibilities, organization, and a summary of the interviewee’s career journey, from beginning to present day.
- Industry Overview (2-3 paragraphs based on research): Provide an overview of the industry (not your interviewee’s company), including market size, types of careers in the industry, nature of work in the field, types of writing and communication skills required, and other skills needed. Incorporate information from both the interview and additional research you have done. Use 3-5 sources of information for this section and provide in-text citations using APA formatting. (You will also provide a list of references at the end of the paper.)
- Interview Process (2 paragraphs): What worked well with the process of preparing for and conducting your informational interview? Why? What didn’t work well? Why?
- Reflection (2-3 paragraphs): This is the most important part of your memo. Synthesize 2-3 meaningful highlights or “take-aways” from the interview and reflect on their implications for your career.
Next, include the following items as three separate pages at the back of your memo:
- Reference List: A list of 3-5 sources you used for your industry overview. Be sure to use APA formatting.
- Interview Questions: A list of 10-12 questions you thoughtfully prepared prior to the interview, in the order that you intended to ask them. (It’s okay if you don’t end up asking them exactly as you planned—but it’s important to have a list.) You need to write these questions yourself; do not plagiarize a list of questions from the internet. Think about what you would really like to know from this person. One question you should definitely ask is, “What are employers in your industry looking for in new college graduates?”
- Thank You Note: A copy of the thank you note (handwritten or emailed) that you sent to the interviewee, preferably within 24 hours of the interview. Be professional and detailed as you thank the interviewee as this person was gracious enough to spend valuable time with you.
Identifying the Interviewee
First, identify an executive or working professional who can provide a valuable, informed, and practical perspective about your potential career and the types of skills and knowledge required to succeed in that career. If you are not sure about your career plan, take advantage of this opportunity to interview someone whose career or job you find appealing. Use tools such as LinkedIn, Handshake.
Preparing for the Interview
Before the interview, learn as much as possible about the interviewee (via the company website, LinkedIn, etc.), the interviewee’s industry (current trends, market needs, recent news, types of jobs and careers, average salaries, etc.), and the organization for which he or she works (company website, company “About Us,” “Investor Relations,” or “News” pages, Glassdoor.com, etc.).
Prepare your list of 10-12 questions to ask your interviewee. Avoid vague questions such as, “Is social media useful for you?” It is more useful to ask specific but open-ended questions, such as, “My research shows that many marketing professionals are using social media as a major component of their organization’s marketing strategy. How is your organization using social media to attract new clients?”
Conducting the Interview
Dress professionally, arrive at least 15 minutes early, and be prepared to guide the discussion. During the interview, take some notes to help you remember the conversation, but do not ask the interviewee to slow down so that you can take detailed notes. If you would like to audio-record the interview, be sure to gain permission of the interviewee. As the interview is coming to a close, take a minute to skim your notes and ask the interviewee to clarify anything that is ambiguous. Before leaving, ask permission to contact the interviewee later to clarify a point or two, if needed. Request a business card and give the interviewee your card, if you have one.
During the Interview
- Be pleasant and purposeful. You are there to get information, so don’t be shy about asking questions and redirecting the conversation back to your questions if you’re not obtaining the type of information you seek. (You do not have to ask all of your prepared questions if you’re obtaining other, helpful information from your interviewee.)
- Use the list of questions you have prepared, starting with the less complex and difficult ones, and then moving to the more challenging questions. Be flexible and be ready to ask appropriate follow-up questions, based on the interviewee’s responses.
- Practice active listening and let your interviewee do most of the talking.
- Be mindful of the time and do not take more time than you scheduled, unless the interviewee suggests/agrees.
A memo is a professional document used in organizations to share important workplace information. The assignment should use a traditional memo format and be clear and concise. You can use a memo template from Microsoft Word to create your memo.
To organize your memo effectively, include topical headings for each section; this instruction handout is an example of using topical headings. Single-space the text within paragraphs and add a vertical space between paragraphs and the headings at the top. All text should be left-aligned, 12-point Times New Roman or Arial font, with one-inch margins.