Informational Interviewing

By CEO Elaina Atallah ’16

As a senior at Colgate, I have done my fair share of networking and more specifically informational interviewing. If done correctly, this can be a great way to set yourself not only on a career trajectory that you are interested in, but also form key relationships with people who can help you along the way! There are two main reasons to do an informational interview: (1) to find out more about a career path you are interested in, and (2) to find out more about a company you are interested in, but aren’t applying to yet.

Here are some tips:

Where to find people.
Everywhere, but here are some suggestions:

  • Recent alums that you were friends with at Colgate
  • Alums you meet at information sessions or networking events
  • Family friends
  • People found on ICAN, LinkedIn, etc.

Do your research.
In this day and age you can find an overview of people’s entire career path on LinkedIn. By doing your research ahead of time you can save both parties a lot of time by skipping the overview of where they worked. It also reflects well on you, because it shows that you are taking it seriously. By doing your research you can also craft a series of specific questions to ask, which brings me to my next point…

Be specific.
I usually try to skip very vague questions, because it will lead to a vague response. Here is an example of a question I wouldn’t ask:

  • If you could give one piece of advice to a student about the job search what would it be?

If they are a high ranking professional with years of experience, they probably can’t sum up their entire career in one piece of advice. Instead, I would questions along the lines of the examples listed in the Career Services Informational Interviewing guide.

Be sure to maintain these relationships.
Take notes during your conversation. Send a thank you email referencing some of the things you talked about. Then, when you have a milestone in your career (ex. you land an internship for the summer), email them and let them know how you are doing.

What if your career interests change?
That’s okay! Maintain these relationships regardless. They may have friends who work in that field they can refer you to. Think about it this way, not all of your friends at Colgate want to do the same thing after graduation. This proves people have networks beyond their own career fields and would often be happy to utilize them to help you out!


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