Tips for informational interviews

information sessions interview prep networking

Whether you're shopping around for graduate programs, making career decisions, or just learning more about something that interests you, informational interviews are a useful tool for gathering information and making connections that will enrich your professional network. So many of the opportunities that have been influential in my academic career have resulted from connections established or opportunities that I’ve learned about from an informational interview. An informational interview is exactly what it sounds like: a conversation with a professional in a specific field to gain information about that field. At the very least, an informational interview will allow you have to a conversation with someone in your field (generating a new LinkedIn connection, perhaps). At most, you can leave these interviews with newfound clarity about a career path, a new mentor who is invested in your success, or a recommendation for an employment opportunity. 

LinkedIn, company/organization websites, references from existing contacts, alumni services, career/professional development events are all great places to look for these opportunities. It can help to be introduced by a mutual contact, but that is definitely not a requirement for a fruitful conversation. Once you have the contact information – reach out and introduce yourself! Ask when it would be convenient for a quick (30 min) chat. In my experience, people are usually excited to engage with someone reaching out with genuine interest in and respect for their professional experience.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your interviews:

Come with specific questions 

While many people are happy to talk at length about their experiences without too much prompting, it is always helpful to come prepared with questions for the interviewee. Think about what you want to learn and what someone with their specific professional background may be able to teach you before you meet with them. One of the most informative questions I like to ask is, “What specific skills or personal qualities are important to success in this role?” I often follow up on this question to ask for any recommendations for opportunities or experiences that would help build the required skills. This will help you get actionable advice! Other great questions can be as simple as “What does an average workday/week look like?” or “Do you recommend anyone else I should speak with?” 

Keep organized records

If you’re anything like me (incredibly eager though prone to being overwhelmed), it can be easy to flood your brain with too much information to the point that it just gets lost. I have found it very helpful to stick to a simple but effective organization system. I have a folder on my computer (nested within a broader folder on professional development and career planning) specifically for networking and informational interviews. I keep a document where I save the names and some professional details of potential interviewees, and the status of our meeting(s). I also have another document where I take notes on the meeting. I take some notes during the meeting, but I always reserve 15 minutes after the conversation ends to reflect, summarize, and record anything noteworthy while the conversation is still fresh in my mind. Be sure to highlight any specific next steps, and don’t forget to follow up and thank the interviewee for their time!

Be genuine - let your enthusiasm show!

While you are building a network, it is important to maintain professionalism—but don’t let that turn you into a robot! The most senior experts in your field are still humans, and I have found that I build more lasting relationships and have more enlightening conversations when I can connect to that humanity. Let your personality show through in your conversation. Don’t be phony, but don’t hold back on your enthusiasm! Trust me, nothing is more flattering than someone genuine interest and excitement in your lifelong work. 


Haleigh is a PhD Candidate in Biomedical Sciences at NYU Medical School. She previously earned her BS in General Science from Pennsylvania State University and her MPH in Environmental Health Science at Columbia University.


academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT college admissions expository writing English strategy MD/PhD admissions writing LSAT GMAT physics GRE chemistry biology math graduate admissions academic advice law school admissions ACT interview prep test anxiety language learning career advice premed MBA admissions personal statements homework help AP exams creative writing MD test prep study schedules computer science Common Application mathematics summer activities history philosophy secondary applications organic chemistry economics supplements research grammar 1L PSAT admissions coaching law psychology statistics & probability dental admissions legal studies ESL CARS PhD admissions SSAT covid-19 logic games reading comprehension calculus engineering USMLE mentorship Spanish parents Latin biochemistry case coaching verbal reasoning AMCAS DAT English literature STEM admissions advice excel medical school political science skills French Linguistics MBA coursework Tutoring Approaches academic integrity astrophysics chinese gap year genetics letters of recommendation mechanical engineering Anki DO Social Advocacy algebra art history artificial intelligence business careers cell biology classics data science dental school diversity statement geometry kinematics linear algebra mental health presentations quantitative reasoning study abroad tech industry technical interviews time management work and activities 2L DMD IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs Sentence Correction adjusting to college algorithms amino acids analysis essay athletics business skills cold emails finance first generation student functions graphing information sessions international students internships logic networking poetry proofs resume revising science social sciences software engineering trigonometry units writer's block 3L AAMC Academic Interest EMT FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Health Professional Shortage Area Italian JD/MBA admissions Lagrange multipliers London MD vs PhD MMI Montessori National Health Service Corps Pythagorean Theorem Python Shakespeare Step 2 TMDSAS Taylor Series Truss Analysis Zoom acids and bases active learning architecture argumentative writing art art and design schools art portfolios bacteriology bibliographies biomedicine brain teaser campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets central limit theorem centrifugal force chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience community service constitutional law consulting cover letters curriculum dementia demonstrated interest dimensional analysis distance learning econometrics electric engineering electricity and magnetism escape velocity evolution executive function fellowships freewriting genomics harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles hydrophobic effect ideal gas law immunology induction infinite institutional actions integrated reasoning intermolecular forces intern investing investment banking lab reports letter of continued interest linear maps mandarin chinese matrices mba medical physics meiosis microeconomics mitosis mnemonics music music theory nervous system