Reaching out and asking strangers for a professional interview is a large part of the international student job search. Informational interviews are the must-have tool for your US job search. Without them, you will not get hired in the US.

Informational interviews are conversations with professionals. They give professionals an opportunity to get to know you. Use informational interviews as a tool to build relationships with connections inside companies you’d like to work. When people get to know you and your qualifications, they are more likely to refer you when a position opens.

The conversations also give you an opportunity to learn about the company and roles that interest you. Think of informational interviews as a way of gathering data about a company.  The more you know, the more competitive you will be in the job search.

Strategic preparation for informational interviews gives you confidence. Preparation will improve your conversational skills as well. Just like studying before an exam, you need to study before you interview a professional contact, especially if you don’t know them. People expect that you will have a basic understanding about the company and their position before you interview them.

Being prepared means knowing the background information on the company and person you are interviewing with. It is considered unprofessional to be unprepared for an informational interview. You do not want to waste people’s time by asking “What is your role here?” or “So what does this company do?”

Start with research

Visit your target company’s LinkedIn page or website.

Answer these questions:

  • What is their business purpose?
  • What are their main services or products?
  • If it’s a nonprofit, what is their mission?
  • What interests you about this company or organization?
  • Have they been in the news lately (social media is helpful for learning more about this).

Review your contact’s LinkedIn profile

Write down:

  • their role in the company and the department they work in
  • academic and work history
  • things that you might have in common (sports, study abroad, volunteer experience, hobbies interests)

This research exercise is good practice for job interviews too because you will prepare the same way for a company interview.

Write down your conversational goal

Answer these questions to find your conversational goal:

  • How do you want your contact to feel about your conversation?
  • What do you want your contact to remember about you?
  • What do you want to learn from your conversation?
  • What do you want from your contact after your conversation?

Writing down your goal adds structure to your conversation. It helps you make a positive impression and accomplish something beyond the conversation.

Select 3-5 questions for informational interviews

Your career services office has a list of questions. Or you can try these seven or look up even more here. 

Learn more about informational interviews

Listen to our latest interview with a international student who got two jobs in the US. Click here.

Or try our online course:

How to Talk to Anyone: Informational Interviewing for International Students.

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