Networking Tip Sheet: The Informational Interview

Whatever you are exploring or applying for, we urge you to connect with people you can learn from. Informational interviews are a part of every profession, and one that most professionals enjoy –– you will be in a position to return the favor someday! When you start this process, keep notes about your conversations!

Find Potential Contacts in your Desired Field   

  • BrownConnect –Brown’s online career network at is searchable by industry, organization, geographic location and more
  • 3 F’s – Ask family, faculty, and friends for the names of people you might approach
  • Former/current supervisors – Even those working in unrelated fields can be useful
  • Online Brown LinkedIn Alumni Page, Facebook, Twitter

Make Contact

Send an introductory email. The goal is to schedule an informational interview. Ffocus on your interest in the work of the contact and be brief.

Subject: Career Inquiry from a Brown Grad Student

Dear Ms. Jones: Professor Smith at Brown University suggested I contact you to discuss your work as a science writer and editor. I am a doctoral student interested in science communication as a possible career field and would like to learn more about the nature of the work. If possible, I’d be interested in arranging a brief phone conversation to discuss your professional experience, at your convenience. I hope to hear from you soon.

Do The Interview!     

  • Generate questions – Plan ahead. What questions will you ask? In what order? (The resources available on ImaginePHD can be a great help with this)
    • Begin and end by showing appreciation – Thank your contact for making time to speak with you. Reiterate your interest in the field and let them know they have been helpful.
    • Wear a reporter’s hat – Think of yourself as a reporter writing a profile. Your job is to ask questions and to listen. The interview is not about you—it is about your contact.
    • Butbe ready to answer the question – Tell me about yourself – Contacts might ask you questions about your education, background, and other experiences. Be ready with an answer that is brief and to the point. They might ask – how can I help you today?

Closing and Follow up

Ask for job/internship search advice – Never ask your contacts if they are hiring. It’s more effective to ask for their general advice on your search. Example:

Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me today. Our conversation has been very helpful. I am still looking for a job in this field and am wondering if you have any suggestions or advice for me.

Send a thank you email – Reiterate your appreciation, and mention something specific from the conversation (“I especially enjoyed hearing about your work with Science Magazine”). Follow up with any leads you discussed, and update your notes about the conversation. Invite your contact to connect via LinkedIn.