The Art of Information Interviewing

Are your children good at asking questions? If you have a toddler in your home, then your answer is probably a resounding, “YES!” It may seem that you are constantly being bombarded with the most basic of all questions: the simple, “Why?” As your children move into their kindergarten and elementary school years, their questions become a bit more complex, like, “Why is the sky blue?” or “How big is an atom?”

By the time your children enter their junior high and high school years, they begin to consider various plans for their futures. Along with such considerations comes a whole new set of questions. “Should I go to college after high school graduation?” “What career field should I pursue?” “If I do go to college, what should be my major?” and so on. This is a stage in their lives when they really need to ask questions, yet most teenagers with whom I talk admit they are asking very few, if any, questions.

I am a career counselor who works with teenagers to help them discover career paths that match their natural talents. I am amazed at the number of students I see who are planning to pursue a career in law, medicine, or computer science and have never questioned an attorney, doctor, or systems analyst about their day-to-day job duties.

One of the reasons students give for not interviewing someone in the career field they are considering is that they simply do not feel comfortable asking questions. They do not know what type of questions to ask, and they worry about bothering people with their questions. I remind the students I work with that most people are thrilled to talk to a young person about their career. I suggest that they call someone who works in a career field that interests them. Explain that they are considering pursuing the same career and that they would like thirty minutes of their time to interview them for information about their particular field. The information they glean during this time is extremely helpful in assessing whether or not they are on the right track. I have had some students return from such information interviews and express total shock at what they found out. One student who dreamed of a career as a counselor discovered, after one information interview, that she definitely did not want to be a family and marriage therapist. Such insight saved her and her parents a great deal of time and money pursuing a college degree that really did not match her natural talents. Until the information interview, she never really knew what a family and marriage therapist did all day long. She discovered that her notions about family and marriage therapy were quite different from reality.

Another advantage to sending teenagers out to conduct information interviews is that they will become skilled at acquiring information through asking questions. Such research and investigation skills will come in handy when it is time to conduct a job search. Also, your student will become more comfortable in an interview setting. Going to an office and conversing with adults in the work environment is good practice for when they will actually be in an employment interview situation.

For those of you who have teenagers who do not know what type of questions to ask during an information interview, I have included a list of possible questions. I recommend that your student begin by asking these questions of you and members of your family or close friends. This will help them build confidence and gives you a chance to determine which of the questions you think they should ask. Once you feel they are ready, encourage them to contact someone in the career field in which they are interested and set up a time to conduct their information interview.

Possible Questions for Information Interviewing: (fill in the blank with career field of interest)
1. How did you first get interested in ________?
2. What do you like most about _____? What do you like least?
3. What skills and talents do you think are necessary for a person to be successful in__________?
4. How do your life values fit your career choice?
5. Have you always been a________? If not, what else have you done?
6. What advice would you give to someone who is considering _______ as a career?
7. What is the best education, background, or training a person can receive to prepare him or her for_______?
8. What other career fields do you think would use the same type of skills as you use in____?
9. Describe your day-to-day job duties.
10. If I wanted to pursue the same career as you, what are some things I could do at this stage in my life to help prepare me for a career in_______?
11. What magazines or journals do people in your career field read?
12. What books do you consider important reading for people in your career field?
13. Is there an association or organization for people in your career field? If so, do they have student membership?
14. Do you know of any scholarships for students who want to pursue a career in______?
15. How do you use your work to bring glory and honor to God?
16. What biblical principles and/or specific scriptures do you use as your guide in your work?
(Taken from Heading in the Right Direction: Biblically-Based Career Planning for High School Students by Becky Preble)

Encourage your student to conduct several information interviews; I usually require at least five. They can be with five people from different career fields or five people all representing the same career field. The important thing is for your student to become comfortable asking questions as a means for gathering information.