STEM Job Search, Part 6 – How to Prepare for an Informational Interview

Previously, in part 5, we covered various scenarios and messaging and follow-up strategies for how to ask someone for an informational interview. This final post will cover navigating the informational interview, including defining a learning goal, preparing questions, and being mindful of the dos and don’ts. Let’s begin!

Informational Interview Overview

An informational interview is an informal, focused conversation about a topic that interests you.

In the context of a job search, these interviews revolve around meeting someone who can share valuable insights into what it’s like to work in a specific role, company, or industry.

Informational interviews are a great networking tool that helps you:

  • Test your assumptions about a specific job, company, or industry
  • Build relationships and get exposure to the hidden job market

Below, we will cover the 5-step process for preparing for and making the most of your informational interviews.

Step 1: Research is critical.

I have received and granted requests for informational interviews. Nothing is more frustrating than offering to share my time with someone who comes unprepared and proceeds to waste mine.

Never go into a meeting cold. You worked hard to reach out to this person and inspired them to help you. Make it worth their time by learning as much as you can about the person before the meeting.

Start by seeing what you can learn about your interviewee, such as:

  • Current and previous jobs
  • Educational background
  • Common interests (alma mater, personal interests, volunteer causes)
  • Recent mentions in the news, published articles, interviews, etc.

Afterward, familiarize yourself with their current company, such as:

  • Mission and history
  • Company size and locations
  • Products, services, customers
  • Competitive industry presence
  • Leadership team

Your interviewee will notice if you come prepared and show that you’ve made an effort to make sure the meeting is a productive use of time for both of you.

Step 2: Define your learning goal.

To make the most of your’s and your interviewee’s time, you must come to the meeting with a clearly defined learning goal. What do you want to learn from this person? Do you want to:

  • Get firsthand information about jobs, companies, or industries?
  • Learn more about career paths in a particular industry?
  • Get tips on how to transition into a certain career path?
  • Build professional relationships with people in a certain field?

Step 3: Prepare thoughtful questions.

Once you determine your learning goal, you’ll want to prepare a list of questions across different areas to guide the conversation.

Below, I’ve included some sample questions. This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully, it offers you some inspiration as you prepare for your informational interviews.


  • Why did you pursue a role with this company?
  • What led to your hiring (or advancement) to [Position Title]?
  • What do you like best (and least) about working at [Company X]?
  • How would you describe the culture at [Company X]?
  • How does this company differ from others you’ve worked for?


  • What inspired you to pursue a career in [Industry X]?
  • What advice would you give to someone looking to break into this industry?
  • What types of opportunities and challenges excite you?
  • Do you recommend any industry blogs, journals, or websites I should follow?
  • What direction do you see the industry heading in the near future?


  • What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do in this job?
  • What are your proudest achievements and contributions?
  • Can you share your experience with the hiring process at [Company X]?
  • What’s the best way for me to express interest in an open job?
  • What technical and transferable skills have you found vital to your job?


  • What do you believe has been your biggest success factor to date?
  • What types of hobbies and interests do you indulge in outside of work?
  • How do you maintain a decent work-life balance?
  • Have you considered where you want to see yourself next year?
  • Is there anything I should be doing to improve my career prospects?
  • What advice would you give someone new to the industry, job, company, etc.?
  • Have I left out any questions I should be asking?

Remember, the goal is to gather information and insight, so don’t shy away from challenging questions.

Step 4: Initiate and guide the conversation.

Start by reminding the person how you were connected and details about who you are, what you’ve done, and your aspirations.

Here’s how I approached informational interviewing while working in the specialty chemicals industry:


I’m an Applications Scientist who has spent the last 3 years working in the specialty chemicals industry. I currently work at Emerald Performance Materials as part of the R&D team, supporting the development and commercial launch of a new sustainable, environmentally-friendly plasticizer line for the adhesives industry. I’m interested in meeting and speaking with 5-10 people in the chemicals product management space.

Doing this helps the interviewee understand that you’re looking for additional resources early on versus putting them on the spot or catching them off guard at the end of the meeting.

I also recommend clarifying any time constraints up front. Things come up throughout the day, so be mindful of their time and ask.

For example:

I know we built in [X] minutes for this meeting. Before we start, I want to make sure that’s still okay with you or if we have any time constraints to be aware of.

Stick to the agreed-upon meeting length, even if the conversation is going well and you don’t want it to end.

For instance:

I want to respect your time. I want to keep talking, but we have [X] minutes left, and if you need to go, I understand.

Doing this will allow your interviewee to continue or wrap up the conversation respectfully and professionally.

Step 5: Thank and follow up with your interviewee.

Thank this person for taking time out of their day to meet with you. Send this note by email within 24 hours of the meeting so you have time to reflect on what you learned from the conversation.

Keep it short and focused, and stick to the following format:

  • Express gratitude for taking the time to meet with you.
  • Mention 1-2 specific takeaways from the meeting.
  • Share additional details about your next steps.
  • Offer to help them now or in the near future.
  • Provide your contact information so they can easily reach out.

Always, always, always send a thank-you note, even if the meeting didn’t go well or you didn’t learn anything, or even if the person was your friend. Basic interview and business etiquette keep communication open and active. These emails can be archived or shared with hiring personnel and company decision-makers.

Informational Interview Follow-up

Below, I’ve shared some sample thank you letters that you can modify and personalize.

Example 1: Standard Concise Follow-up

Dear [Interviewee Name],

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me on [Day of Meeting]. I enjoyed hearing about your experience at [Company X] and your perspective on your challenges in [Position X].

Your insights were truly valuable and reaffirmed my decision to [Insert 1-2 details from the interview].

I also really appreciate you putting me in touch with [Contact Name]. I hope you don’t mind if I keep you periodically informed of my progress. Thank you once again!


[Your Name]

[Contact Phone]

[LinkedIn URL]

Example 2: Offering Your Assistance

Dear [Interviewee Name],

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me on [Day of Meeting]. I am grateful for your patience and eagerness to answer all my questions and share details about your career path as an [Position] at [Company X].

I also wanted to specifically thank you for providing information about the onboarding, hiring, and training process for new team members, all of which will be highly valuable as I develop my career in [Industry X]. I hope to continue this discussion sometime in the future.

Since I have experience in [X], I am happy to offer my services should [Company X] need additional help in the future. I look forward to staying in touch and future engagement. Once again, thank you for your time and consideration.


[Your Name]

[Contact Phone]

[LinkedIn URL]

Example 3: Intention to Upskill

Dear [Interviewee Name],

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Your insights on [X] helped to support my decision to gain more experience in [Industry X] before I pursue graduate school.

As you suggested, I have already reached out to [Professional Organization], and I will regularly check the website you selected for leads. I look forward to staying in touch and will update you on my progress. Thank you once again for your guidance.


[Your Name]

[Contact Phone]

[LinkedIn URL]

Final Dos and Don’ts

As we conclude the final post in our STEM job search series, remember the following:


  • Clarify your learning goal.
  • Research the person’s career background to go beyond the basics.
  • Prepare a list of 7-10 questions that cover topics you genuinely want answered.
  • Initiate and guide a 2-way discussion. The interviewee should do most of the talking.
  • Be ready to answer questions about your background and your interests in the field.
  • Start by briefly recapping who you are, what you’ve done, and your aspirations.
  • Take notes on what you learned and the next steps you plan to take.
  • Be respectful of the meeting time, UNLESS they agree to extend the conversation.
  • Follow up with a thank-you email within 24 hours to express your gratitude.
  • Stay in contact, especially if you had a great connection with your interviewee.


  • Be afraid to ask. The worst you hear is “no.”
  • Arrive too early (no more than 5 minutes). If you do, use the time to take a walk.
  • Ask for a job. It’s off-putting and uncomfortable. This is a networking opportunity.
  • Pull out your resume UNLESS the interviewee asks for it. Keep it low-stress.
  • Make it about you. It’s okay that you briefly introduce yourself and your goal.
  • Slouch, mumble, or talk too fast. Pay attention to your body language.
  • Ask uncomfortable, intrusive, or personal questions about salary, bonuses, or family.
  • Go over the allotted meeting time, UNLESS the interviewee says it’s okay.
  • Dress down. Informational interviews are meant to be casual but look respectable.
  • Let a bad meeting sour you on a job, company, or career path. Use it as a learning experience and seek out second and third opinions.

Informational interviews are an invaluable job search and networking strategy that can help you gain a competitive edge. If you made a strong impression with your interviewee, s/he could serve as a sponsor on your behalf next time a position that fits your skills, experience, and background opens up. Most importantly, informational interviews offer the opportunity to gain mentors and build relationships. As your job search progresses, stay curious and look for leads who could offer new insights into your career target.

Scientech Resumes is dedicated to helping science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals find fulfilling work through targeted, branded, and keyword-optimized resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and other career marketing documents. Schedule a FREE 20-minute discovery session to get some real-time feedback on your current resume and job search strategy or connect with me on LinkedIn. Let’s get you where you want to go, with greater results!

Kate Williamson

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