What is Informational Interviewing and How Can You Use it to Build Your Career?

October 9, 2023

By now almost everyone in the workforce is aware of networking and how job seekers can use it to establish relationships with people who might help them in their careers.

A byproduct of networking that will help you get the specific information you need to build your career is informational interviewing.

In a nutshell, informational interviewing occurs when you formally request to sit down with someone you have met via networking to learn more about the job they have now or the place they work.

How can you find informational interviewing opportunities? Here’s some advice tailor-made for respiratory therapists.

Finding interviewees

First, of course, you have to locate people you want to interview. There are several approaches you can use –

If you already know someone who you think could help, reach out via phone or email and invite them for coffee or lunch. Let them know you are interested in interviewing them to learn more about their career and/or the place they work now in anticipation of possibly following in their footsteps one day.

Don’t know the right people right now? One of the best ways to gain face-to-face contact with other RTs in your area is to attend the next meeting of your AARC state society chapter. Many of the people you’ll meet there will hold positions of authority in their facilities and you can either request a time to speak with them more in-depth via an informational interview, or ask them to connect you with someone who might be a good interviewee for your needs.

If getting together with colleagues in person isn’t a good option, you can always reach out via social media. AARConnect is a great place to learn about and get better acquainted with RTs in your area and all over the country too. You don’t want to ask for an informational interview online, but a connection made on the platform can easily be taken offline via a phone call or email.

Get your ducks in a row

Making the initial contact is vital to your success. So is making sure you have all your ducks in a row before you actually sit down with the person, whether in person or online, to conduct the interview.

Before you get together with your interviewee, have a firm plan in place as to what you hope to gain from it. That means coming up with a list of questions to ask the person and a strategy for asking them. Here are some categories you can use when organizing your questions –

  • The profession in general – where it has been and where it is headed.
  • The culture of the facility where your interviewee works.
  • The specific role played by your interviewee in that facility.
  • How the individual in question handles work/life balance and what their facility offers in terms of work/life balance for their employees.

Most of your informational interview will be spent listening to the person you are interviewing as they answer your questions. But you will want to have a brief synopsis of your own career, and most importantly, your career goals, to present to the interviewee as well. Providing them with a good idea of what you are looking for will help them tailor their answers to your needs.

How can you break the ice in an informational interview? Here are a few opening questions that can get the ball rolling –

  • What drew you to the profession of respiratory care and why did you decide to focus on your current area of expertise?
  • What steps have you taken in your career, in terms of education, experience, and credentialing, that you feel played a role in your success?
  • What does your job description entail and what are the biggest challenges you face in the role?
  • What do you like about working at your facility and what things do you think could be improved?

Each of those questions is likely to generate more questions as the conversation proceeds, giving you a chance to dig deeper into areas that are of most interest to you and your career.

Ask for advice

After you learn all you can about your interviewee, it’s time to ask a few questions aimed at getting their best advice on how you should proceed with your own career. While you don’t want to ask for a job outright, you can tailor these questions to what you really want to achieve. Here are some examples –

  • I have applied for several positions and am waiting to hear back about interviews. What advice do you have for me about preparing for those interviews?
  • Your facility sounds like a great place to work. What can I do to increase my chances of one day coming to work for your RT department?
  • I hope to one day be in a position like the one you have now. What do you think I should be doing right now to get there?
  • Can you recommend two or three additional people who might be able to expand my knowledge of your role? I would like to interview them as well.

Once the interview is over, be sure to thank the person for their time and interest in your career and follow that thanks up with an email when you get back home. That email is a great place to reiterate your career goals as well, and cite some of the things you plan to do now based on the advice the individual has provided.

Close with all of your contact information (email, phone, etc.) so that the person can easily get back in touch with you if an opportunity arises that they feel might be right for you.

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