How to Ask for an Informational Interview

Career Blog
Man at table talking with another professional

Published: July 2, 2024 by Aryn Prestia 

Once in grad school, you likely learned rather quickly (or will learn very soon) that there is more than one way to be a librarian. There are dozens of specialities when it comes to library science – Public, Academic, Special, Medical, Law, and Archives, just to name a few. As you navigate the maze of career choices, the journey from aspiration to actualization can be overwhelming. This is where informational interviews come into play, serving as invaluable tools for those looking to better understand the nuances and day-to-day responsibilities of librarians in practice.

Understanding Informational Interviews

So, what exactly is an informational interview? Think of it as a casual yet insightful conversation between a curious individual and an experienced practitioner. Imagine you’re eager to delve into the world of reference librarianship. Sitting down with a seasoned reference librarian allows you to gain insights into the nuances of the profession, far beyond what textbooks or online resources can offer.

Who to Approach 

While talking with any librarian could be beneficial, it’s helpful to look for someone who seems happy in their job or someone who has a job that you think you may want. When making your request understand that the person is likely very busy so be sure to acknowledge that in your initial ask. Introduce yourself and tell them what you’re hoping to gain from the interview and provide a specific amount of time that you are looking to spend chatting.

Your potential interviewee could be a colleague in your organization, someone with whom you’ve connected on LinkedIn or in another social network, someone you’ve read about, a member of an association you belong to, or even a younger professional whose specialized knowledge is vital to your career exploration. Essentially, your potential interviewee could be anyone who has knowledge that will help you gain more insight into a potential job, career path, or employer.

Making the Ask 

It can feel uncomfortable to ask someone you don’t know very well for a favor, but most practitioners are more than happy to assist you. Here are tips for diffusing those feelings of awkwardness: 

  • In your request acknowledge that you understand time may be limited 
  • Provide a brief introduction and identity what information you’re hoping to gain from the conversation
  • Specify how much time you are hoping to spend 
  • Specify the kind of conversation you’d like to plan and provide alternatives (e-mail correspondence, phone call, a chat over lunch or coffee, etc.)

Here is a sample e-mail: 

Dear [Name],

My name is Libby Librarian, and I’m just beginning my career as a Library Assistant for a public library. I saw you speak at the California Library Association Conference, and admire your realistic approach to the profession and your insights. I know that your successful career must mean that you are quite pressed for time, so I appreciate your consideration of this request.

If possible, I would like to have an informational interview with you regarding your career path, your insights into the field of children’s librarianship and its possible growth path, and any advice you would have for someone just starting out in this field. I’ll prepare some questions for us to discuss, so you wouldn’t be responsible for any preparation or preliminary work. I’ll keep the interview brief, no longer than 20 or 30 minutes, and would be happy to connect in the most convenient way for you: by phone, over a cup of coffee or lunch, or via e-mail if that’s your preference.

Thank you again for considering this request for an informational interview, [name].

Best regards,

[Your name]

Once you’ve scheduled your interview, be sure to prepare some thoughtful questions (stay tuned for a future post on some great example questions).

Two More Things…

Here are some job opportunities on Handshake that might be of interest!


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