Maximize Your Winter Break with an Informational Interview

Between celebrating the holidays, catching up with friends, visiting with your family and ringing in the New Year, Winter Break comes and goes by in a flash. Before you know it, it’s time to head back to Happy Valley for the spring semester and the only things you’ve accomplished were binge-watching multiple new shows on Netflix and eating a record number of sugar cookies.

However with nearly a month off, winter break is the perfect time to take steps to further your education and advance your career by setting up an informational interview. By heading into break with an organized plan of action, you can easily maximize your winter break to be productive, while still having plenty of time for some fun.

First off, you may be wondering, “What is an informational interview?” You’re not alone. Many students are unsure of what they are, how they work, and whether or not they really need to do them. An informational interview is a “flipped interview” where you conduct an interview with a professional in your career of interest. In this style of interview, you ask the professional questions about his or her position, job description, company logistics, etc. By doing these, it will increase your professional network, and might even lead to potential internships or job opportunities. While it is not a time to ask for an internship, it can naturally lead to an available opportunity.

The thought of setting up your first informational interview can be pretty intimidating, so VALLEY has teamed with Career Services to give you all of the steps you need to succeed:


When choosing who to interview, reflect on your interests, what you are looking for in job, and what aspects of a job you value. Are you interested in specific position or working in a specific organization? It is ideal to do research on what is available in the area or within desired traveling distance, but an informational interview can also be held over the phone.

You should aim to schedule your informational interview before break starts. That way, you give them advance notice so they can choose the meeting time at their convenience.

You can conduct your outreach via email or over the phone. The first contact should be precise and professional, short and to point, offering a little bit of background on yourself. Ask if they are interested and available to meet, but ask professionally, not writing in a way that assumes they’ll say yes.  

When planning the meeting arrangement, let them take the lead in offering the location. Be sure to come with questions written and rehearse them beforehand.

The Interview

When heading to your interview, dress in business casual attire. You should arrive early and be sure to turn your cell phone off before heading in.  At the beginning of the interview extend a firm handshake and use the appropriate title (Mr./Ms./Dr.).

During the interview consider your non-verbal actions such as eye contact and posture. It is essential to remember you are the one interviewing, so you should be prepared to initiate the conversation. It is appropriate to take notes here and there but don’t directly rely on notes as it takes away from connection.


A good strategy once you leave is to take some time to reflect and take notes so you don’t forget the key takeaway points.  

It is vital to send a thank you follow-up to show respect and your appreciation. The follow-up should be concise, to the point and connected to your conversation.

Have any other questions? Career Services has the answer! Penn State Career Services’ expert staff is committed to helping all students identify and achieve their career goals. Their office is conveniently located on the corner of Bigler and Eisenhower Road in the Bank of America Career Services Center. They offer drop-in counseling Monday through Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with no appointment necessary. If you’d like to find more information, visit or stop in today!

This post is sponsored by Career Services.