Picture two people seated at a coffee shop, talking, and one of them busily taking notes of their conversation. It’s an interview of a different sort, one that could lead to a new job or career.
If you have a disability and are thinking of going back to work or working for the first time, an "informational interview" is a great way to find out about a type of job or career at a company or in a field that interests you. You can do this even when there’s no job opening. Asking someone for an informational interview shows you’re motivated to work, eager to learn about employment opportunities, and interested in exploring a particular workplace or field.
If you are participating in Social Security’s Ticket to Work program, talk with your Employment Network or State Vocational Rehabilitation agency counselor about the benefits of informational interviews and the best ways to prepare for and conduct them. Review the following tips before getting started.
Informational Interview Tips
Before the interview:
- Find the right person to interview. Ask for referrals from friends, relatives, neighbors or your Ticket to Work service provider. You can also contact people you admire in your field or the field you’re exploring by using a social network like LinkedIn. Be clear about the kinds of things you want to learn more about — that will help others find the right people to connect you with for an informational interview.
- Schedule the interview. Suggest some dates and times that work for you. People often meet at coffee shops or inexpensive local restaurants, places where the time together feels more conversational and less like an official interview. Let the person know you’ll meet somewhere convenient for them, even if that’s at their place of work. If your only option is to have the conversation by phone, that’s okay, too.
- Do your homework. If you’re meeting with someone you don’t know, make sure you research that person and their company and industry.
- Set the agenda. It’s your meeting, so be clear on what you want to gain from the conversation. Prepare a list of questions to guide the conversation. You might ask:
- Why did you choose this type of work?
- How did you get started in this field?
- Which jobs and experiences have you had that prepared you for your position? Did you need any special training or education?
- What is a typical workday like for you?
- What do you like most and what is most challenging about your job or organization?
- Can you recommend any books or articles to help me to learn more about this field?
- What advice do you have for someone who might want to work in this field?
- Is there anyone else in your company or field I should talk to?
- Be prepared to talk about yourself. Share your work and volunteer experiences, and what interests and inspires you. Choose one or two things you want to highlight about yourself while you have their attention.
During the interview:
- Keep it professional. Be early and dress professionally, as if it were an actual job interview. Don’t directly ask for a job. Take notes.
- Keep the meeting brief. Focus on the person’s career and insights. Your top priority is learning about their career, the work they’ve done, and the kinds of jobs you might want to pursue.
- Bring copies of your resume. Be prepared to provide it if they ask for it.
After the interview:
- Thank the person by email or a handwritten note.
- Follow-up on items you promised to send.
- Reflect on what you learned.
An informational interview will not only help you learn more about workplaces, jobs and careers, it may also lead to a future job!
About Ticket to Work
Social Security’s Ticket to Work program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.
To learn more about Ticket to Work, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/work and contact the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 (Voice) or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket to Work Find Help tool.