Informational and Telephone Interviews

Informational Interviews

An informational interview is really a "fact-finding mission" to gain insight into an industry or a particular job or organization. This is not an interview for a job. Here are some possible questions to ask in an informational interview situation:

About their job description:

  1. What are the responsibilities of your position?
  2. What do you spend the most time doing?
  3. What do you like/dislike about your job?
  4. If you could change one thing about your job description, what would it be?
  5. What is a "typical" work day like for you?
  6. Is your job "office-based" or do you spend time outside of your office (travel, visiting clients, etc.)?
  7. What types of issues do you deal with? What types of decisions do you make?

About their organization:

  1. What is your organization known for?
  2. What are the toughest challenges in the industry for your company?
  3. How would you describe the corporate culture (dress code, atmosphere, level of formality)?
  4. How is your company organized, and where does your position fit in?
  5. Who are your closest competitors in the region? In the country? In the world?
  6. Is there training and/or professional development available through your company (either in or out of the office)?
  7. How is job performance evaluated?
  8. Is there a mentoring program for new employees?

About their career field:

  1. Are there entry-level positions in this field? What are they?
  2. What skills do you feel are necessary to enter this field?
  3. How did you get into the field? Would you trace your progression to your current job?
  4. What are the current trends and issues in this field?
  5. How do you stay current on developments in this field?
  6. Are there in-house training programs available?

Advice for getting into the field:

  1. What credentials are necessary to break into this field (education, skills, experience, specialized training, certifications or licenses)?
  2. Do you have any suggestions for improving my resume to appeal to recruiters in this field?
  3. Is there additional experience I should have to be competitive for a position in this field? (advanced degrees, work experience, course work?)
  4. Where are open positions advertised for your organization?
  5. Who would I contact in your company to apply for a position?
  6. Are there professional organizations in the field that would be beneficial for me to join? Could you suggest anyone else I should speak with to get more information?
  7. Where do you see this field/industry 5 years from now? 10 years? When working with networking contacts (and especially alumni), please keep the following in mind:
    • Be respectful of their time. If you asked for a ½ hour, stick to that time frame.
    • Don’t expect them to do everything for you.
    • Be prepared with questions and state them clearly. Listen carefully.
    • Be courteous.
    • Thank them promptly.

If you have questions about establishing networking contacts or how to network, make an appointment to meet with a Career Counselor in the Office of Career Development by calling the office at 802.654.2547.

Telephone Interviews

Given the rising costs of recruiting new employees, telephone interviews are an easy and relatively inexpensive way for employers to screen potential candidates for employment. However, they are difficult for the interviewee to handle since there is no face-to-face contact with the recruiter. Here are some tips on how to handle a telephone interview.

If your interview has been scheduled:

  1. Be at the phone number you have given to the recruiter at the given time. DO NOT be late for a phone interview! A recruiter may not call back, and you may have lost any opportunity you had to interview.
  2. Insure that your surroundings are quiet and free from distractions. Make sure your roommates are aware that you are interviewing, and this is important to you. Close your door and turn off music, your computer (especially instant messaging, social networking, etc.) and anything else that may cause you not to be focused. If you feel that your room will not provide a quiet environment, contact the Office of Career Development to see if we can provide you with a quiet space for your interview, and then contact the recruiter with the new phone number.
  3. A phone interview is a “real” interview, and should be treated as such. You can be screened out of the recruiting process by not doing well.
  4. Do your homework – research the company as thoroughly as you would for a face-to- face interview. Be aware that the first question could be, “Tell me all you know about our company and why you want to work for us.”
  5. Make notes about what you want the interviewer to know about you (skills, experience, etc.).
  6. Keep your resumé and cover letter, and any other research materials near the phone. The recruiter most likely has these documents in front of her/him, and you may need to refer to them.
  7. When you are applying for any type of position (part-time, full time, internships, graduate school, etc.), always make sure to answer your phone in a professional manner. Insure that your voicemail is professional as well. If it’s not, recruiters may not leave a message or follow up with you in the future.
  8. Ignore any “call waiting” – never put your interviewer on hold.
  9. Don’t use a cell phone or portable phone if you can secure a land line. If you wander away from the phone source or leave a “cell” , the conversation may be interrupted by static or a poor connection or may be dropped altogether. If the batteries die during your conversation, you may not have the phone number of the recruiter to call back on another line.
  10. Refer to the interviewer as “Mr.” or “Ms.” – do not use a first name unless the interviewer invites you do otherwise.
  11. SMILE – this comes across in your voice, and makes you sound interested in the company and the position.
  12. Speak directly into the telephone. Do not smoke, chew gum, or eat or drink anything during the interview as this can be transmitted across the phone line. In addition, any extraneous noises will carry as well – tapping a pencil, moving your chair, etc.
  13. You could be on a speaker phone during the interview. In some cases, you may know that there are one or more people listening on the other end, and in some cases, you may not. Be aware that there also may be multiple people asking questions. Take notes to clarify who is asking what question, so that you can follow up appropriately.
  14. Silences do not necessarily need to be filled. Sometimes recruiters use silence to get an interviewee to continue speaking.
  15. Get dressed as if for a face-to-face interview. This will put you in the mindset that this is an important piece of your job search. Sitting in your bathrobe with your feet on your desk will lessen the importance of what you are doing.
  16. Take notes during the interview. This is helpful for developing follow up questions.
  17. Have questions prepared about the company and/or the position to ask at the end of the interview if there is time allowed. This makes you sound interested in working for them.
  18. Make sure to thank your interviewer at the end of the interview. Verify her/his name and address if you are unsure of it, and write a thank you note immediately.

On occasion, a telephone interview can come as a surprise in response to a resumé you may have mailed to a recruiter. If this happens:

  • Sound positive and friendly. Take a couple of deep breaths and relax.
  • Always leave a copy of your resumé near the phone or carry one with you - as well as any other recruiting materials - just in case you are surprised by a call from a potential employer.
  • Follow the steps above.