Work-Based Learning - Informational Interviews Activity Guide

  • Informational Interviews Fact Sheet
  • Coordinator Checklist
  • Virtual Options
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Informational Interviews Fact Sheet

What are Informational Interviews?

Using informational interviews to support learning is a structured Career Exploration activity in which students formally interview an employer partner about his or her industry, educational and career path, and chosen profession. Students may also explore the range of career opportunities within the company or industry, opportunities for growth and the salary ranges for different occupations.

Designed to meet specific learning objectives, informational interviews are educationally rich, are tied to the curriculum, and help students connect what they’re learning in school with the workplace. Unlike a guest speaker activity, where speakers usually address a group in the classroom, informational interviews are one-to-one interactions and generally take place at the company’s workplace. They may also be conducted via telephone – ideally utilizing Facetime or Skype.  In some cases, hybrid informational interviews may be conducted via Zoom,  Microsoft Teams, Google Meet or some other technology; are conducted online, and students participate in a virtual classroom. There are also virtual simulations available where a recording of a live informational interview, conducted by a teacher or small group of students, can be viewed online and serve as a foundation for an activity and/or discussion in the classroom.

Informational Interviews are designed to:

  • Provide exposure to potential careers and jobs.
  • Provide a realistic picture of the business, its role in the community and the career paths and occupations of its workforce.
  • Help students make the connection between school and the workplace.
  • Inform career planning.

Informational Interviews are structured to:

  • Offer students the chance to practice and demonstrate key professional skills including communication, critical thinking, workplace appearance and timeliness.
  • Enable students to begin identifying areas of career interest.
  • Build knowledge about the education and training needed for a particular job, career path and entry into the industry.

Informational Interviews are supported by:

  • Classroom preparation, including research on the industry and participating businesses.
  • Employer orientation and support.
  • Opportunities to reflect upon the experience verbally and in writing.

Informational Interviews are connected to:

  • Individual career development/training plans.
  • Future work-based learning activities.
  • The student’s next steps.

Informational interviews are one activity in the continuum of authentic work-based experiences provided to all students engaged in career-related programs or course of study in New York City schools.

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Quick tips for Work-Based Learning Coordinators* to ensure a successful Informational Interviews

Before

  • Identify all interested teachers and help them plan for the informational interviews.
  • Address any relevant school policies that may apply (in the way that field trips may be handled).
  • Make sure the employer partners are good matches for the careers students are interested in.
  • Prepare teachers and encourage them to support the informational interviews and reflect them in their classroom activities. Share the Teacher Tip Sheet.
  • Have teachers help create learning objectives and work with students to prepare and create a list of questions to ask in the interview.
  • Create and provide appropriate support materials for distribution to employees who will participate in an interview.
  • Work with employees to help them prepare for the interview. Discuss best methods for being real with and engaging students.
  • Arrange for student transportation and other logistics.
  • Find out if safety gear is required and, if so, arrange for it to be provided.
  • Have the student call or email the staff member/company to confirm the details for the informational interview. Ideally, it should take place at the worksite. If it’s an online hybrid activity confirm the technical details, time and format.
  • Ask for permission to record and share the interview with others in the future.
  • If conducting the activity in a virtual classroom or online, test and practice with the interface prior to the presentation.
  • If students are interviewing employer partners over the phone or using another technology; ensure appropriate permissions, guidance and protections are in place and share those policies with employer partners and students.

After

  • Document the informational interview. Review feedback from interviewed employees, students and teachers and summarize results. Make recommendations for improvements.
  • Help students update their Employability Skills Profile and think about any next steps they would like to take to further their career goals.
  • Work with teachers to connect the informational interview to the classroom.
  • Send thank-you notes to employer partners.
  • Publicize the informational interviews and the companies that participated by placing a story in the local newspaper or posting on the school website or social media.
  • Suggest the students share their experiences on social media and tag the partner businesses.
  • Consider other potential public relations benefits and opportunities.
  • Post the Informational interview recording on a shared drive or website.

Tips for Conducting Hybrid Informational Interviews

  • Select and personally practice using the selected technology.
  • Make sure all students have access to appropriate technology.
  • Do a test run with your students as well as the presenter.
  • Have all students who will participate in the activity brainstorm and prepare questions they would like the Interviewee to answer.
  • Select a small group of students (or individual student) and have them pose the group’s questions to the interviewee using the selected on-line platform or conduct the interview yourself. Record the activity.
  • Decide how you want to organize and moderate the session. Sometimes it takes one person to manage the session and another to monitor the technology and address questions..
  • Decide which student reflection activities will take place and how you will support them.
  • Remember, it’s possible that parents or guardians will be around and would be a good resource for potential future speakers.
  • Make sure you get feedback on the activity from the interviewee and the students.
  • Record and post the presentation for others to view and use in their classrooms.

*In New York State, this includes certified work-based learning coordinators and others who facilitate, arrange and support work-based learning activities for students.

Sample Timeline

  • Beginning of the School Year: Identify interested teachers and brainstorm companies that could participate.
  • Two months in advance: Invite business partners to participate. Find out the best days and time for the employer partners.
  • One month in advance: Confirm student participation. Have students research the industry or company.
  • One week in advance: Send employers logistics for the day and questions to expect. Have students confirm the interview day and time. (If an online activity, test systems and launch interface prior to the activity)
  • After Interview: Make sure thank-you notes, reflection activities and Employability Skills Profile updates are completed.

Tips for Success

  • Engage in proper planning and preparation.
  • Address logistical details.
  • Communicate with all parties.
  • Maximize learning potential.
  • Focus on building awareness.
  • Connect to the classroom.
  • Provide support for students and supervisors.
  • Promote student reflection.
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Informational Interviews Virtual Options

Introduction

Conducting informational interviews virtually requires a careful look and policies and procedures regarding student contact via phone or the internet with industry partners outside the school setting.

Informational interviews are usually conducted individually at the workplace or the school, however they may take place over the phone or using technologies such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet when appropriate permissions, guidance and protections are in place.

Virtual and hybrid informational interviews approaches are more straight-forward in terms of conducting them in an on-line environment, yet they lack the power of direct student and industry partner interaction. There are also a number of virtual simulations available where a recording of a live interview with an industry partner can be viewed on-line and serve as a foundation for an activity and/or discussion in the classroom

Virtual Activity Options

Remember, virtual activities either promote “live” student contact with adult professionals and front-line workers via the use of technology, or are simulations and provide students with employer exposures through recordings, online research and related classroom activities.  Appropriate permissions, protections and guidance should be developed to support these experiences.

Informational Interview by Phone or Online

A student formally interviews an Industry Partner over the phone or internet about his or her industry, educational and career path, and chosen profession.

Steps to Success

  • 1. Review the Informational Interview Guide. Distribute and review checklists and tip sheets to all parties
  • 2. WBL Coordinator and/or Teachers recruit a range of Industry Partner(s) and support students in selecting those they would like to interview.
  • 3. In some cases, students may identify and reach out to an industry partner they would like to interview.
  • 4. Consider having students interview someone they know about their career path and industry (could be a parent guardian, friend, coach, pastor, shopkeeper, etc.).
  • 5. WBL Coordinator and/or Teachers help students select and test the platform as well as schedule the interview with the industry partner.
  • 6. Students then contact, asks questions and interacts with the interviewee.
  • 7. Teacher Supports reflection activities and helps students update their employability skills profile.

Virtual Informational Interview Foundational Activity

Students review a prerecorded interview with an industry professional in the virtual classroom and engage in a guided discussion after the interview.

  • What did you learn?
  • What surprised you?
  • What do you wish the person had been asked?
  • How can you follow up to learn more?

Consider having students conduct online research to locate prerecorded interview session with employers and use those on the classroom.

Go Hybrid

A model where small groups interview an industry partner via Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet or some other technology, record the session and then use it to form the foundation for a classroom activity and discussion.

Steps to Success

  • 1. Review the Informational Interview Guide. Distribute and review checklists and tip sheets to all parties
  • 2. Teachers and students work together to identify occupations they are interested in learning more about.
  • 3. Teachers and Students work with the WBL coordinator to recruit Industry Partners in those industries that hold those jobs. or participation in an interview. Partners are asked if it’s okay for the interview to be recorded for future use the classroom.
  • 4. WBL Coordinator and/or Teachers help select and test the appropriate platform and schedule the interviews.
  • 5. Teachers work with students to develop a set of questions to use with all interviewees.
  • 6. Teachers recruit and select students (no more than three per interview) to actually interview the industry partner. (teachers may monitor the session if appropriate).
  • 7. Students then provide a presentation to the class on the interview, showing the recording, and commenting on the experience.
  • 8. Teachers then lead a classroom discussion or activity to help students reflect on the experience

Special Considerations

  • Ensure appropriate permissions, guidance and protections are in place and share those policies with employer partners and students
  • Distribute and collect necessary permission forms
  • Get employer permission to record and reuse the session
  • Make sure students are comfortable with the selected technology

Resources & Links