College and Elite Athletes

Informational Interview: Keep These Facts in Mind

When you begin the process of informational interviewing, keep the following things in mind:


  1. You are not asking for a job. You are simply asking for information and advice, so you are not putting this person on the spot.
  2. You have the right and a responsibility to yourself to seek advice and information from those who can best help you.
  3. Because you are interviewing them, you are in charge… and they can relax.

The art of informational interviewing is knowing how to balance your hidden agenda (to expand your network or locate a job) with the unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the demands of various jobs or fields of work. Thus, it is wise to never abuse your privilege by asking for a job in an informational interview; but execute your informational interviews skillfully, and a job may follow.




How Do You Prepare for Informational Interviews?

As a collegiate athlete, it would be best if you targeted two to four informational  interviews  every  year,  beginning  your  sophomore year. That would give you up to 12 separate interviews by the time you are in line for graduation and a great head start on building your network of advisors. If you really hit it off with one of your interviewees, they might even have a job for you after your eligibility expires!


 You should prepare for your informational interviews just as you would for an actual job interview: polish your presentation and listening skills and conduct preliminary research on the organization. You should outline an agenda that includes some well-thought-out questions.


Begin your interview with questions that demonstrate your genuine interest in the other person: “How did you first get interested in this line of work?” or “Can you describe a typical day in your department?” Then proceed with more general questions: “What are the employment prospects in this field?” or “Are you active in any professional organizations in your field, and which would you recommend?” If appropriate, you can also venture into a series of questions that might open up an  advice-giving role: “What should the most important consideration be in my first job?” The whole idea is for you to shine, to make an impression, and to get referrals to other professionals.



The Primary Objectives of Informational Interviewing are to:

The primary objectives of informational interviewing are to:


  • Investigate specific careers of interest to you
  • Assist in narrowing your career options
  • Discover employment opportunities that are not advertised
  • Access the most up-to-date career information
  • Determine which skills employers look for in new employees
  • Determine skills to market in your resume or during an interview
  • Help identify your professional strengths and weaknesses
  • Help assess whether your skills are strong enough
  • Obtain advice on where you might fit in
  • Learn the jargon and important issues in the field
  • Broaden your network of contacts for future reference
  • Create a strategy for entering your field of interest
  • Build confidence for your job interviews

Final thoughts on informational interviews: you know this already, but always remember to send a thank-you letter to every person who grants you time for an interview and to every individual who refers you to someone. Even though these contacts are not employers who can offer you a job, they will be the most important, influential people you will know in your early career development.


The #1 Most Valuable Career Prep Activity You Can Do!

The Informational Interview!


As a collegiate athlete, you don’t need me to tell you how over-programmed you are and that you have absolutely no extra time for anything. But what if I told you the #1 secret to helping you make the transition from college and sports to a great job took just a little of your free time each semester or quarter? If you’re smart, you will find the time for informational interviews throughout your college or professional-athlete years.


One of the easiest and most effective ways to meet people in the professional field you  are interested  in is to conduct informational interviews. Informational interviewing is a networking approach that allows you to meet many different types of people, gather career information, investigate career options, get advice on job search techniques, and get referrals to other professionals.


Informational interviews also provide a way to explore different careers and discover jobs that have not been advertised to the public. Informational interviewing helps you build your network and gather information. For the most part, the people with whom you conduct informational interviews will not have a job to offer, but they will supply their time, expertise and knowledge of their practice area, and the names of other people for you to contact– and all of this may lead you right into a job offer at some point.


Informal informational interviewing involves setting up an appointment with someone you want to talk to but may not know personally. Because you are an athlete, there are many alumni athletes at your school or former members of your team that would happy to meet with you for an informational interview. Other terrific sources for interviews can be parents of your teammates, contacts from the sports information department (like reporters and editors), and alumni from your desired major who are introduced to you through the Athletic Development Office.


An informational interview is one of the few interviews in which you are in control of the questions asked. It is a chance to learn more about a specific career without making a long-term commitment of your time or money. You can find out about the responsibilities, rewards, and problem areas inherent in a specific career by asking questions of people already established in that field.

Make Time for Some Experience

Although many college students work in the summer or have part-time jobs during the school year, many student-athletes do not. Why? Simply because it interferes with practice, they don’t have the time or because if they worked, their jobs more likely would not be related to their fields of study. For the past several years, school and athletics was your job. So, what’s an over programmed, time-strapped student-athlete with little real work experience supposed to do to get real world work experience? The short answer is: Find the time to get a part-time job either in the off-season or during the summer. The long answer is to garner as much practical work experience as you can over the course of your college life.


First, it’s important to understand what employers are looking for when recruiting for entry-level positions, and that one thing is POTENTIAL! What have you accomplished that demonstrates your potential? Whatever the industry, most entry-level jobs require many of the same qualities and skill sets, including interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, leadership skills, and the ability to work effectively with others– all skills that the intercollegiate athlete possess in abundance.


Recruiters also look for involvement in campus activities. I’ve been told countless times that even with all other things being equal, a recruiter will always offer the job to the student who has been involved in a variety of campus activities over the student who just went back and forth to class for four years. Why? Because being involved suggests the ability to manage one’s time more effectively. Being an intercollegiate athlete or holding a position in a club or organization also suggests leadership ability and communication skills and a willingness to stretch yourself.