Informational Interviews

By: Anjelica Young – 2nd Year – Global Health

Emory is located in the Public Health capital of the world. And while you can bump shoulders with some of the most distinguished thought leaders in the world in disease control as you grab your morning coffee, it is up to you to use the proximity to your advantage. Hence, the informational interview. During my time at Rollins, I have found the informational interview to be the MOST career shaping and arguably the most valuable aspect of Rollins. I have been fortunate enough to have interviews with various leaders spanning from non-profit, government and consulting firms, some of these resulting in job opportunities. At Rollins we have a saying, network or don’t work. And this is absolutely true.

There are plenty of articles online that explain the art of the informational interview. A few of my favorite sites for brainstorming questions are here and here. What I hope is to lend some insight into the informational interview within the public health context at Emory. I’ve compiled a short list of tips that I have gradually learned over my numerous informational interviews.

Tips for getting the most out of the informational interview:

  1. If you enjoy a lecture from a professor or visiting staff, approach them after class and ask them if you could follow up with an informational interview to learn more. If they are able to put a name to a face it will make it much easier for them to take time out of their schedule to meet with you (as oppose to remaining an unanswered email in their inbox).
  2. Reach out and ask for 20 minutes of time, whether that be over the phone or in person at a nearby coffee shop. I have found that most public health practitioners are willing to take the time to meet with students and enjoy being a mentor. By asking for a short period of time, it doesn’t seem like a massive burden.
  3. Do your research!!! Look the person up on LinkedIn and any other platform. Don’t waste time asking silly questions about their background that you should have learned online.
  4. Use the interview to understand their role within the company they are at or have worked for. Ask questions that will help you get an understanding as to whether or not this is a position YOU might enjoy. And even if their position doesn’t sound like a good fit, it wouldn’t hurt to ask if there are some jobs within their division/department that look for someone with your skill set of XYZ. Public health encompasses so many different skills and these interviews can help guide you to a fulfilling job that utilizes your skill set.
  5. Always write down a few questions and have them in front of you. Which leads to my next point:
  6. You should always have paper and a pen in front of you when the interview begins. Undoubtedly the person you are interviewing will say something you would like to follow up on and you don’t want to be taking notes on a phone or looking unorganized and grabbing a pen 10 minutes into the interview. Plus, by having a pen and paper in front of you, they see that you value their time and experience.
  7. Be cognizant of time. If you said 20 minutes, take the 20 minutes. These people are busy and agreed to the interview with the understanding of a certain time constraint.
  8. Always ask if the person you are interviewing with knows someone else they recommend you meet with. Because if that person cannot offer you a job, his colleagues might be looking for someone and he/she didn’t even know it. This works. This is how I got myself into my current position at CDC.
  9. Remember that this is an interview, and you should conduct yourself in a way that reflects this. Dress nicely, avoid playing with your hair or doing any other strange habits you have while you are anxious. This also means dressing the part.
  10. And finally, ALWAYS send a follow up email/letter to thank them for their time and mentorship. Here you can ask them for the contact information of the people they recommended you speak with or simply let them know your next steps after the meeting.

Being a student at Rollins allows you easy access to some of the most influential people in the field of public health. Take advantage of your vicinity and do as many informational interviews as you can! If anything, it’s great practice for when you are job searching and beginning the job interview process.