The information below will help you learn more about different career areas, entry routes and requirements, what's involved in this work, salary guides and more.
What is it?
An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone working in an area of interest to you who will give you information and advice. It is an effective research tool in addition to using the Internet and examining job descriptions. It is not a job interview, and the aim is not to find job openings. The aim is to obtain information and to expand your network of professional contacts.You may feel awkward making arrangements to talk with people you don't know about their work. However, most people actually enjoy taking a few moments out of their day to reflect on their professional life and to give advice to someone with an interest in their career area.
Why do it?
Often the most current information about a career area comes from people who are actually working in that career field. Later in the career planning steps we look at making decisions. You make the best decisions when you have as much information as possible. Informational Interviews are a means of gathering information about various career areas by speaking to professionals working in these areas.
How does an information interview help you?
- Get first-hand information on working within a particular career area, industry or position.
- Get tips about how to prepare for and enter a given career.
- Improve your communication skills and confidence speaking with professionals.
- Learn what it’s like to work at a specific organisation.
- Learn what types of job opportunities exist in a particular career area or organisation.
- Gain knowledge that can help you in a job search.
- Compiling a CV and preparing for Interview is much easier when you have a clear sense of what a job involves. This allows you to tailor your application, matching your skills and experience with those being sought by the organisation.
- Initiate a professional relationship and expand your network of contacts in a specific career area.
- Do some initial research on the career area or employers using internet and print resources.
- Pursue your own contacts. People you already know, even if they aren't in fields of interest to you, as they may know people in your field of interest. Family, friends, lecturers and former employers.
- View Organisations Listing in Careers Connect, as well as our Job Search Strategies.
- View our Careers Information Sheets, which links to professional organisations in your area of interest.
- Read online newspaper and magazine articles.
- Contact professional or trade associations or contact organisations directly for the name of someone working in a relevant career area.
- Identify people in a variety of work settings to gain insight into different working environments. It can be a good idea to collect opinions from both those that are fairly new to the job area, and those who have been in the area for a long time. Be aware that similar roles will differ between individual institutions or companies. You need to go to the person having done as much research as possible about the job, so that you come across to your new contact as a focussed and interested. Prepare a list of useful questions to ask. Use our sample information interview questions as a guideline.
- Having done your research and made a list of potential people to contact, it's time to act.
- Contact the person by phone(see example below) or email.
- Mention how/where you got his or her name.
- Ask whether it’s a good time to talk for a few minutes.
- Make it clear that you are looking for information, not a job.
- Ask for a convenient time to have a 15-20 minute meeting.
- Be prepared to ask questions straight away if the person says that now is a good time for him/her.
Hello. My name is Mary Smith and in final year of a degree in ______________(mention what you are studying) at Maynooth University. Is this a good time to talk to you briefly? I am very interested in ____________(mention your career area of interest) and would like to find out as much as I can about the area. Would it be possible to schedule 15 – 20 minutes at a convenient time to ask you a few questions and get your advice on working in this area?
At the interview
- Whether online or in -person dress neatly and appropriately, as you would for a job interview in the particular industry or field.
- If meeting in-person make sure you know where you’re going and arrive on time or a few minutes early.
- Restate that your goal is to get information and advice.
- Be ready to give a brief overview of yourself and your education and/or work background – you will have prepared this when doing your research !!
- Be prepared to lead the discussion, but also let the conversation flow naturally, and encourage the interviewee to do most of the talking, the aim is to gain as much information as possible about this career area.
- Have a list of well prepared questions and start with your most relevant questions.
- Listen well and show genuine interest in what the person has to say.
- Take notes if you'd like, have a notebook and pen with you.
- Respect the person's time. - Keep the meeting length within the time span that you requested.
- Offer to end the meeting at the end of the agreed time.
- Ask the person if you may contact him or her again in the future with other questions.
- Be aware that everyone has their own opinions and attitudes so speaking with a number of people will allow you to see different perspectives and get a general overview of the career area.
- Always ask for names of other people to talk to for additional information - this is also a useful way of extending your network.
- Keep records. Immediately after the meeting write down what you learned (including any suggestions or advice given to you), anything else you’d like to know and your thoughts in terms of how this industry or position would "fit" with your, interests, skills and future career plans.
- Send a thank-you email within 1-2 days to thank them for taking the time to give you information you found useful - this can be a gentle way of reminding your contact of anything they promised to do.
- Keep in touch with the person, especially if you had a particularly nice interaction. You can let him or her know that you acted on their advice and mention how things are going as a result. This contact could become an important part of your network.
Sample information interview questions
Sample questions are available here.
Take part in our mentoring programme where mentors (former students with professional experience) provide 1:1 career-focused support, inspiration and guidance to mentees (current Maynooth University students). Visit our Upskill page for more information.
Search and apply for experiences related to potential career paths including internships, research, volunteering, shadowing or other work experiences. Work/employment experience can be short term, long term or part-time and could be paid or unpaid. It includes internships, volunteering, part-time/week-end jobs and all provide an opportunity to develop knowledge, skills and experience. In an increasingly competitive work environment, having employment experience can demonstrate to employers that you are ready for work.
Benefits of getting work experience
- Getting work experience during your degree is useful as it will value to your CV, showing employers that you have experienced life outside of study and that you have initiative and general employability skills.
- It can show potential employers your knowledge, suitability for and commitment to a particular career area.
- Relevant work experience can help you gain an edge in employers' eyes in a very competitive jobs market.
- Some Internship programmes in larger companies are used as part of the graduate recruitment selection process, where employers recruit from the group of participants on their internship schemes.
- Opportunity to develop and learn new skills, evaluate the skills you have and identify those you need to develop further.
- Opportunity to try out and learn about the jobs and industries that interest you. Experience is a great teacher and work experience provides a good opportunity to test out a job / industry / sector and really see if it suits you. Some post-graduate courses leading to careers in social work, psychology and counselling, for example, expect applicants to have prior experience (such as volunteer work) in that area.
These are structured work experience programmes where students/recent graduates receive supervised, practical experience in a career-related area. Some features of internships include:
- Fixed time period.
- Training is provided.
- Project Work may be involved – student may be responsible for a completing particular project
- Usually advertised between October and March – closing dates can be early in the academic year.
- Students from ALL disciplines are invited to apply e.g. Arts & Science students can often apply for business internships.
- Competition for places is tough but remember that an estimated third of graduate vacancies are filled by applicants who have already worked for their employer as an undergraduate.
- Some MU courses have an integrated placement as part of the programme.
Volunteering is a useful was of gaining experience in an area that interests you. The benefits include:
- Giving your time to helping others can be a source of personal satisfaction.
- You can get an insight into career areas of interest to you, allowing you to see what is involved in day to day work. It can help you to assess how the career matches your interests, skills and aptitudes.
- Gain valuable experience to strengthen your CV - experience can enhance your job or postgraduate course application.
- Opportunity to build your network in your chosen career area.
It is estimated that around 70% of students work at some stage during their studies. While part-time jobs help to pay your way through University, they can also provide useful learning opportunities and insights into roles and industries. Part-time work experience can provide potential employers with evidence of skills such as teamwork, organisational skills, business awareness, working under pressure, dealing with people and balancing the demands of work and study.
Where to look
There are many ways to look for experience including Careers Connect, GradIreland, LinkedIn, recruiting events, networking opportunities, and asking your professional connections. Leverage several methods for finding experience. Some examples are below.
- Use the MU Careers Connect portal to find opportunities of interest to you.
- Other MU-related opportunities:
- Academic Placement (Internship): Placement is an integral and accredited module for certain degrees, however other degrees (within School of Business or School of Law & Criminology) may opt in to a 9-12-month opportunity. For the list of placements our team oversees, please visit our Placement page.
Summer Programme for Undergraduate Research: This is a 6 week summer research internship open to pre-final year undergraduate students at MU.
Micro Internships: These are 20 - 100-hour paid professional projects that can be completed alongside your studies.
Virtual Work Experience: Forage is Maynooth University’s virtual work experience platform that offers opportunities across a variety of sectors. They typically take 4 - 8 hours to complete and are great if you are interested in getting insight into a particular sector/role.
Volunteering: volunteering is a great way of giving back to your local community and wider society while at the same time developing important skills that will serve you throughout your time here in Maynooth and beyond. There are lots of ways to get involved with volunteering at MU - for example, becoming a Student Ambassador or through MU Clubs & Societies.
- Many of the employers featured in the gradireland directory (available free from the Careers Service) and profiled on gradireland.com annually recruit for summer positions.
- Volunteering in Ireland
- Studentvolunteer.ie is a network of Irish higher education institutions that have come together to create an online resource to connect students and community groups, charities, schools, hospitals, public bodies and NGOs across Ireland. There are also some International volunteering opportunities advertised.
- Kildare Volunteer Bureau who have a relationship with Maynooth University and an information stand on campus once a month during term
- Volunteer Centre database of both residential and non-residential voluntary work opportunities in Ireland
- Activelink works with non-profit organisations. Links to directory of Irish non-profit organisations, job opportunities and volunteering.
- Citizens Information: the national support agency responsible for providing information, advice and advocacy to the public on social services has a database of national voluntary organisations including those involved in providing services as well as those involved in campaigning.
- Comhlamh: information and advice for making a decision about volunteering overseas for global development. Search the Volunteering Options database for volunteering opportunities.
- Irish Refugee Council: Irish Refugee Council need volunteers to work with them in Ireland from time to time.
- Simon Community Ireland
- Simon Community Dublin
- Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
- Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: volunteers needed to work with them in Ireland from time to time.
- Focus Ireland: society to advance the rights of homeless people
- Dochas: Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations
- Barnardos: With more than 40 community based centres, national services, and links with partner organizations, Barnardos delivers programmes to help children and their families
- Trocaire has mainly volunteering opportunities for fundraising campaigns in Ireland. AlsoSummer volunteering opportunities in Africa – usually advertised from February to March each year.
- Goal: opportunities mainly confined to fundraising opportunities in Ireland.
- Concern: opportunities mainly confined to fundraising events in Ireland.
- Volunteering Abroad
- Experience Abroad
- Irish Aid
- Comhlamh: Information and advice for making a decision about volunteering overseas for global development. Search the Volunteering Options database for volunteering opportunities.
- UNESCO Voluntary Internships
- Action Without Borders has a database of international volunteer opportunities as well as links to other organisations promoting global volunteering.
- Voluntary Services International
- Raleigh is a youth education charity which inspires people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities to reach their full potential by working on challenging environmental and community projects overseas.
- Suas: a movement dedicated to supporting high quality education in targeted under-resourced communities, with programmes in India, Ireland and Kenya.
- Volunteers for Peace: A US based organisation. Contains links to other voluntary organisations world-wide including Ireland.
- Voluntary Services Overseas: international development charity.
- Volunteering opportunities
- AFS is an international community-based volunteer organisations.
- Bunac: work/travel/teach/volunteer opportunities in USA, Canada, Australia.
- USIT: volunteer programmes in Africa, Asia, Latin America
- Projects Abroad: global organiser of overseas volunteer work placements.
- Habitat Ireland: we send volunteers overseas to build houses in partnership with local communities and families.
- Remote volunteering ideas
Our Careers Advisers are available to meet with you and answer your questions. We can help you clarify your options, explore what further information you need to move forward from here. That could be more information, getting experience or looking into further study options.