Conducting an interview with a professional in your field of interest.

Occupational interviews are meetings set up to answer your questions about a field or position. These types of interviews are conducted with workers who are willing to take the time to speak with you and share their experiences. This type of interview is not a job interview. Rather, it’s understood that the sole purpose is information gathering, much like the way reporters use interviews to find background information to support a story. People who are willing to talk to you will most likely be enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge and experience, but you—as the interviewer—will be expected to be prepared with a clear sense of what you want to know about the job.

Occupational interviews can provide a wealth of information about the duties and responsibilities required to work in your field of choice. They also give you the opportunity to find out how a real-world business defines the role for the type of position you are investigating. During an occupational interview, you may find that your expectations for a job are different from the daily reality of the position.

It will be important to be persistent and to contact multiple organizations in order to find a company or employee willing to take the time to speak with you. Remember: not all positions with similar titles will have the same range of duties at different organizations, or even within the same organization. Businesses continuously tailor their positions to meet changing business needs and/or to take advantage of individual employees’ strengths, aptitudes, and interests.

Setting up an Occupational Interview

Below are some tips to help you with the process of setting up and successfully conducting an occupational interview.

Finding Contacts
  • Think of the people in your network—have you already made contact with individuals who might be able to help you connect with appropriate organizations or businesses? It’s always easier to build on an existing contact than it is to start fresh with someone new. Ask around: you might be surprised by who has connections in your field of interest.
  • Use an Internet search engine to find businesses or organizations that have the type of job you’re interested in learning about.
  • Use YellowPages.comor a phone book to find businesses in your area.
  • Consider transportation to the location—Make sure that the businesses you choose to contact are accessible to you.
  • Consider the safety of the location.
  • Compile a list of the organizations you find that seem appropriate and accessible to you.
Before You Call
  • Prepare a script, but learn it well so that you won’t sound like you’re reading. Here are some tips to think about when preparing your script:
    1. How will you describe the purpose of the interview?
    2. What kind of experience you are looking for? Do you want to talk to someone one-on-one? Perhaps more than one person at the company would be helpful to speak with.
    3. How much time do you expect to need? An informational interview is usually about an hour long. Remember that your interview will take time out of your interviewee’s workday.
    4. Are there specific responsibilities that you would like to be able to see firsthand? For instance, if the position requires customer contact, ask if you can hold the interview during standard business hours so you can see how customer interactions are handled.
    5. You can explain that you are taking an online course from the American Foundation for the Blind and give the instructor’s contact information.
  • Keep in mind that not all organizations or workers will be open to an informational interview.
  • Be prepared to be polite, conscientious, and persistent.
When You Call
  • Remember to be polite and professional with everyone you speak to.
  • Take notes on the places you contact and who you speak with and make sure to update your resource log in case you make contacts that you might want to be in touch with in the future.
  • If a company does not allow informational interviews, be gracious and ask what the reason is.
  • If a company does not allow informational interviews, ask if they might know of other local companies in the same field that you could contact.
  • If a company is willing to set up an interview, ask if they can supply you with any background materials that might help you prepare.
  • If you don’t know about the individual to whom you will be speaking, ask for some basic information: job title, history with the company, etc.
Before the Interview
  • Schedule your transportation well in advance of the interview date, and make sure that you will arrive early.
  • If the company requires that you fill out paperwork because of confidentiality or other matters; then do what is needed to get it done. If you will be filling out paperwork at the site, make sure you arrive early enough to complete it before your interview time.
  • Make sure you have appropriate attire for the workplace you will be visiting. If you’re not sure about the dress code, ask!

Preparing for and Conducting the Occupational Interview


Thorough preparation is important for a successful occupational interview.

  • Do diligent background research on the company: pay careful attention to their web site, familiarize yourself with the products, services, or activities that are central to the business.
  • Have a clear understanding of what you want to learn. An hour might sound like a long time, but it can go by very quickly.
  • Put together a list of questions well in advance of the interview and review, edit, and add to them regularly. Take a look at the questions you’ve been compiling on your Job Information Form, and the questions you’ve been discussing with your mentor(s). Can you build upon these sources for your occupational interview?
  • Make sure to ask about job duties that may not be typical to the position, or that are shared by coworkers in the office. Note the tasks mentioned and think about how you might accomplish them.
  • Dress or clothing should be appropriate for the work place where the observation is being conducted.
  • Good hygiene should be followed prior to the observation or any interaction with the employers.
Attitude and Behavior:
  • Be early or on time for your appointment.
  • Be positive.
  • Be polite and gracious.
  • Act in a professional manner.
  • Use appropriate language.
  • If allowed, take notes. If not, pay attention and take notes once the interview is over.
  • If you are using technology, be professional about it.
  • Make sure you are not a distraction.
  • Be prepared to answer questions.
After the Interview
  • Keep track of the contact information for the person you spoke to.
  • It’s important to send a message thanking the interviewee for taking the time to speak to you.
  • If you say that you will keep in contact and update the person on your job search, then keep in touch! You never know where job leads will come from and this person could become part of your personal network.
  • You could send a message to the organization, mentioning how great the person was for allowing you to do an occupational interview with him or her and how helpful the experience was for you. Employers always like to know positive information and hear compliments about their employees.

Next: Assignment: Occupational Interviews   Previous: The Occupational Interview

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