Professional research interviewing

You might talk to a range of people involved in your field of interest – employers, academic staff, alumni and professional association representatives. Research interviewing can be used in a number of ways:

  • to find out about options within a field or industry
  • to ‘reality check’ a particular occupation
  • to get practical advice.

The idea is to contact someone in the industry and arrange to interview them. Try to talk to a range of people – if you do just one interview, you run the risk of getting a biased view.

Practical tips

  • A research interview is not a job interview; the aim is to gather industry and professional information, so refer to the interview as ‘professional research’ or 'career research'.
  • Ask to meet in person, preferably in the workplace.
  • Make a specific appointment for a short period of time. For example, 15-20 minutes.
  • Plan your interview – do plenty of research and think about what you really want to know (and can’t find out elsewhere).
  • Dress and conduct yourself professionally – think of it as a business appointment.
  • Bring along your resumé – it may be appropriate to offer.
  • Aim to leave with a referral to someone else you can approach.

Finding people to interview

  • Use your network to get suggestions – ask friends, family, work colleagues and lecturers
  • Contact the relevant professional association and ask for industry contacts
  • Research organisations online (eg. using LinkedIn, Yellow Pages) and approach in person, via telephone or email

Approaching employers

Your approach can be by phone, email or in person. The choice will depend on factors such as size of the organisation, the culture of the industry and what you are comfortable with.

General tips

  • Always be polite, prepared and purposeful.
  • Aim for a discussion with the employer about possibilities rather than directly asking for a job
  • Make an initial call to find out whom you should direct your enquiry to
  • Think about what you are going to say and the best way to say it before you make contact
  • Think about a connection to the employer that you can use in your introduction – eg. read about them, heard about them, heard them speak, read an article etc.

Phone contact

  • Prepare and practice your introduction – be clear, brief and engaging
  • Be prepared to talk about why you have contacted the organisation and what you have to offer
  • Give the option of making a more convenient time to talk
  • Think through how you might handle any resistance – eg. they don't have time to talk, they are not available now etc.

Email contact

  • Ensure that the content of your message is focused and attention grabbing.
  • Make sure that you keep your message as concise as possible.
  • Indicate that you will be contacting later by phone (in a few days perhaps) to talk further – ideally try to make a time to meet in person.

We encourage you to find out more about professional associations and industry bodies, or visit our faculty pages for industry-specific information.

Need some more help?

Attend a seminar or workshop on interview skills. Check Stop 1 for scheduled sessions.