Dal Lowe is a student in the Music Composition for Film, TV, and Games degree program at Berklee Online. A former member of the ‘90s R&B group Maniquin, Dal has plenty of music industry experience but has always wanted to score films. As one of the electives for his program, he took Peter Spellman’s Career and Job Success in the Music Industry course, where he was required to set up informational interviews as one of his assignments. Since Dal was going to be in California on vacation, he was able to set up a meeting with the vice president of Roundabout Entertainment, a post-production company in Burbank that services the film, television, and streaming industry.

“One thing led to another and they said they were looking for a recordist who knew Pro Tools, which I’ve used pretty much my entire musical career, and it seemed just like a good fit,” says Dal. “So they said, if you’re ever back out here in California, we’d definitely be interested in a job situation.”

Dal stayed in touch with the vice president and eventually decided to relocate from DC to California to accept the position. In his role as a recordist, Dal works with voiceover dubbing for films that are being translated into English. In six months at the job, he has worked on films that will appear on Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon. 

“My situation definitely caught me by surprise that it was as simple as it was,” says Dal. “I’d tell anyone interested [in informational interviews], to go forward and just be prepared when you get there. Be prepared with your questions and with your direction of where you want to go in the industry because they’ll be asking questions as well.”

Dal says he is excited to be working in a job that’s bringing him closer to film scoring while he completes his Berklee degree. He is also working to relaunch his production company to incorporate film, TV, and games.

“Peter and his course curriculum taught me that no matter your current position or level of industry education, if planned, calculated, and executed, the future is a bright one for all who dare and continue to dream,” says Dal.

If you’re wanting to tap into informational interviews as a way to expand your network, and even land a job in your desired field, here are some tips pulled straight from Peter Spellman’s Career and Job Success in the Music Industry course.

What Is an Informational Interview?

Informational interviews are just what they sound like: interviews designed to get information. These types of interviews are used to learn about the skills, training, and experience needed for an occupation. They are also a way to learn about a specific company or industry, which allows you to evaluate how well your skills and interests fit with a particular career or employer. Informational interviews can also help you get job leads and develop key contacts to tap the hidden job market (i.e., jobs that aren’t advertised).

Unlike a job interview, you are the interviewer in an informational interview and are expected to drive the interaction.

The informational interview is a key job-market search technique. You hear about jobs and opportunities by talking to people. You don’t hear about them by having a great resumé, a good interview look, a firm handshake, or a solid education. All of those are important in their own way, but you hear about opportunities because you get in front of somebody, and informational interviews are a great way to do this.

Why Would Anyone Want to Help Me?

“Why would anyone want to help me?” you ask. Most people like to help others. It makes them feel good. Don’t expect everyone to be courteous or to go out of their way for you, but if you find one or two helpful people, you may wind up with some useful contacts.

How to Set Up an Informational Interview

Start by creating a list of three professionals you will reach out to for an informational interview who represent a career path you’re interested in. LinkedIn is a helpful tool in this discovery process. 

  1. Email (or private message on LinkedIn) the person you want to meet, and emphasize that you are not looking for a job but researching their industry and types of jobs in it.
  2. Schedule a time to talk with the person and prepare questions.
  3. Research the person and the company the person is affiliated with before the meeting.
  4. Keep in mind that when you are going to an informational interview (even via Zoom), you are entering into an organization’s space and using that organization’s resources under the auspices of looking for information. It is by their grace that you are there. It is a gift to you. Take this very seriously, and be a good guest.
  5. Afterwards, send your contact a thank you note, and follow up when you have news or other relevant information, such as an article that the contact might enjoy.

What to Research Before an Informational Interview

This aspect of interview preparation cannot be overemphasized: Do your homework. Research your contact, the company, and the industry. There are a variety of ways to do this.

  • LinkedIn, Facebook, Google (third-party news references and previous interviews, when available, can be very illuminating)
  • Information from the company’s website (e.g., mission/vision statements, current initiatives, etc.)
  • Annual reports (if available)
  • Library (from books, periodicals, magazines, trade journals, etc.)

Become familiar with the company’s products and services, structure, financial status, competitors, reputation, and any recent or upcoming changes. Gather information about the person whom you will meet—background, style, education, affiliations, and their hot-button issues.

Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview

Always go to an informational interview with prepared questions. This will demonstrate your organization skills and proper business etiquette. Below is a sample list of questions to ask.

  • How did you get started in this field?
  • What are your major responsibilities?
  • Which hours do individuals in this job usually work?
  • What are the rewards of your position?
  • What is a typical career path for individuals in your position?

One more thing: always leave the door open for follow-up. At the close of the meeting ask, “What is the best way to stay in touch with you?” That will keep the channel open. While your informational interviews may not end with a job offer like Dal’s did, they are extremely helpful in expanding your network, narrowing down which fields and positions suit you, and practicing your interviewing skills so that it becomes less intimidating.