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Using Informational Interviews to Land a Science Job

Whether you’re looking for your first opportunity to work in a research lab or you’re ready to start your science career after college, the job search process might seem daunting. The good news is that there's a powerful tool at your disposal: the informational interview. This often-overlooked strategy can provide valuable insights, networking opportunities, and guidance on your journey toward landing the perfect job. Here, we'll explore what informational interviews are, why they matter, and how you can conduct them effectively.

The Power of Informational Interviews


Informational interviews are casual yet structured conversations with professionals who work in your field of interest. They are an excellent chance to gain firsthand knowledge about various jobs, companies and career paths - all while building a network of valuable connections. These discussions allow you to showcase your enthusiasm, learn about the day-to-day realities of different roles, and discover internship or job opportunities.


Making New Connections

  1. Research: Before reaching out to potential connections, do your research. You want to familiarize yourself with the roles and companies you're interested in. As you do your research, start writing down any questions you have.

  2. Find Connections: One way to find new connections is to leverage your existing network. Ask your friends, family and coworkers if they know anyone in the role that you are interested in and if they can connect you with them. The alumni association from your college or university can also be a great resource. If you’re looking to break into a new role or field, LinkedIn is another powerful tool you can use to find new connections. The search function in LinkedIn is great - you can see the people who work at a specific company and filter by role and location.

  3. Reach Out: Once you’ve found someone you’d like to have a discussion with, draft your cold email or LinkedIn message. When reaching out to potential interviewees, be concise, respectful, and enthusiastic. Clearly introduce yourself, state your why for contacting them, and ask if they would be willing to chat with you. Ask a trusted peer or mentor to give you feedback on your message before you send it. Many people are open to a brief chat to share their experiences - but don’t be discouraged if you don’t receive a response. Identify 2-3 people in your desired role that you can reach out to if needed. The University of Arizona and Santa Clara University have great resources for what to include in your message.


Conducting the Informational Interview

  1. Prepare: Once you've received a positive response, be sure to prepare questions in advance. Prioritize open-ended questions that encourage your interviewee to share their experiences and insights. Ask about their career trajectory, the challenges they've faced, skills they find valuable, and any advice they would give their younger selves. Check out Yale University’s resource for some great sample questions. It’s also important to prepare a brief 1-3 sentence introduction and why you reached out - this is a great way to break the ice at the beginning of the conversation.

  2. Seek Advice and Grow your Network: Don't hesitate to ask for advice on the steps you can take to enhance your qualifications or increase your chances of success in your desired field. At the end of the discussion, it’s always great to ask if they know anyone else that they would be willing to connect you with.

  3. Follow Up: After the interview, send a thank-you message expressing your appreciation for their time and insights. This shows your professionalism and helps leave a positive impression.

Informational interviews are powerful tools to learn from experienced professionals and gain insights into the day-to-day realities of different roles. Importantly, these conversations are great opportunities to build your network and open doors to opportunities. You might learn of little-advertised internships or of a job opening that hasn’t been posted yet. If your informational interview is with the hiring manager of a position, they may keep you in mind during the initial application stages if they think you’d be a great fit.

The first time you cold email or meet with someone can seem daunting, but it’ll quickly become second-nature. And this step could help advance your career. So go ahead - get out there!

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