How to Ask for an Informational Interview – SJSU | School of Information

Published: July 2, 2024 by Aryn

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

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

  • In your request acknowledge that you understand time may be
  • 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

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