HUM 275: Informational Interview Assignment

Learn more about informational interviews here and here

Get some ideas for questions to ask here and here

Questions after reading the assignment? Put them in the #hum-275-careers-for-humanities-majors Slack channel.

DUE Wednesday, Sept. 9, 5pm.

Overview

You will be assigned to a small group (2 – 3) of your classmates, and your group will be given the name of a working professional (and Illinois alumnus) to contact for an informational interview.

As a group, you will create a Slack channel for your work, research the contact, come up with a list of questions, set up a Zoom (or other online format) meeting to conduct the interview, and then report back on Slack. You should also plan to send a joint thank-you email after the interview to your interviewee.

I have already contacted the interviewees – they know that students will be reaching out to them to schedule an informational interview, and they are expecting to hear from you.

Preparation for the Interview

  1. Create a Slack channel for your group to discuss the assignment, figure out who will do what, and communicate relevant information.
  2. Email your interviewee as a group: introduce yourselves and start the process of setting up a mutually agreeable time to meet. (Ideally, all of the group members should be able to take part.)
  3. Do some research: who are you interviewing? What do they do? What is their connection to humanities at Illinois? What can you learn about their background and their current work from online sources so that you don’t have to ask them about easily available information?
  4. AFTER completing #2, come up with a list of 5 to 7 questions that your group plans to ask this person. (Note that by doing this work in the Slack channel, I’ll be able to help out if I see any potential problems arising with the questions you’re coming up with.)
  5. Discuss a strategy for the conversation. Who will ask what? Have you allotted time for follow-up questions if an answer inspires them? What will you do if you run out of questions (sometimes questions get answered before you have a chance to ask them). How will you wind the conversation down at the half hour mark?

The Informational Interview

  • Check your technology in advance, and start the interview on time. Cameras on, please! Unless your interviewee prefers not to be visible.
  • Plan to start with greetings/introductions rather than just plunging into questions (it is, after all, a conversation).
  • Be aware that things may go “off script” if your questions get answered before you have a chance to ask them, if an answer inspires questions that you hadn’t thought of, if the interviewee takes things in a direction that you hadn’t expected.
  • Start to wrap up the conversation shortly before the half-hour mark, and conclude by thanking your interviewee for their time.

The Follow-Up and Completing the Assignment

  1. Write up a group account of your interview for the rest of the class and post it in the Slack channel I will create for the purpose. The exact form it takes is up to you, but you should:
    • Identify who you spoke to, what they do, and what’s particularly interesting about their story or occupation.
    • Describe ways that the conversation confirmed or defied the expectations you had going into the interview
    • List one thing you learned about your interviewee’s profession, one thing you learned about informational interviewing, and a third takeaway of your group’s choosing.
  2. Write a joint thank-you email to your interviewee: thank them for their time and identify something you found particularly interesting, valuable, or memorable about the conversation.

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