International Students' Guide to Informational Interviews

Interview Tips

November 03, 2021

Making a career choice is a confusing and exhausting process. The stakes are especially high when you are an international student with a temporary visa status. Student Circus UK filters and lists opportunities with worker visa sponsorships to make the search easy for you. But in many instances, you may not be sure about the industry you want to work in or be fully aware of the available options. Informational interviews offer an excellent avenue to probe more and make informed decisions. 

 

Benefits of Informational Interviewing 

Informational Interviews are different from job interviews. You can treat them as professional networking events where you get to interact with people who are already working in a particular company or industry and learn more about a career. Moreover, your outreach demonstrates your attention to detail and keen interest in a particular job position. You can also think of the informational interview as an explorative exercise to see if the office culture would be suitable for you. 

 

As a graduate student in a foreign country, you can be less attuned to the workplace expectations and environment. Knowing about the nitty-gritty details can have a significant impact on your job applications. And no matter where you end up working, contacts in a specific field prove beneficial in the future. 

 

Read on for some tips on navigating informational interviews as an international student and making the most of the conversations.

 

Convert Opportunities into Substantial Associations

The first step is to identify a professional you want to interview. Start with researching about the companies where you would like to work, browsing through the job titles of the employees, and learning more about the profiles through LinkedIn and Twitter. Take help from Alumni Networks, University Career Services, or Student Circus job listings to recognise the potential employers. Then, reach out to your interviewee with a crisp email for setting up an informational interview.
 

Dear [First Name] [Last Name]

Greetings.

 

I noticed on LinkedIn that you are working at [Company Name] as [Job Title]. I’ve been interested in transitioning into the role and would like to learn more about your journey. I’m currently a graduate student at [University Name], so understanding your career trajectory would help me plan my next steps.

If you’re open to it, I could set up a 20-minute call depending on your availability. 

 

Let me know what works best for you. I look forward to hearing from you soon. 

Warm Regards,

[Your Name/Signature]

 

Don’t go into the meeting unprepared. Instead, have a list of questions ready with your learning objectives in mind. Remember that an informational interview led by your genuine interest is more fruitful than grilling scrutiny without any relationship building. It is best to tailor the questions to the interviewee’s experience to get more nuanced answers. For instance, you could ask: “I saw on LinkedIn that you interned at XYZ company before graduating—did that help you in finding jobs later?" 

 

Once you land the conversation, begin with some simple, open-ended questions. You need to set the stage and establish a human connection before going into investigative mode. As the chat progresses, you can dig more into the parts that intrigue you or give you an inside view into the company or career. During the discussion, you may even find out about some emerging career paths or exclusive opportunities that were unheard of in your home country.

 

Consider these topics and ideas to craft questions that are the most relevant and useful to you:

 

1) What got you started in your current role? How did your academic and professional journey pan out?

2) What are the most important skills to land an internship or a job in your field?

3) What kind of internships or entry-level roles are available in your company?

4) How is the work-life balance in this profession?

5) Who can provide more perspective on your career profile? Can you connect me to someone?

6) Did you find volunteer work or membership of professional organisations beneficial in career advancement?

 

When you are new to the graduate job search and application process, it helps to have some expert insights before diving in. Informational interviews help you debunk myths, plan the route, and sometimes, get a foot in the door of your dream job. 

 

Written by Arushi Sharma

 

Arushi is a research consultant and content curator based out of New Delhi, India. Her interests span education, youth skill development, and business sustainability management. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

 

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