SOC 490 – Informational Interview, or “Coffee Talk:” Guidelines and Tips
You will develop and conduct a semi-structured, conversational-style informational interview in a
synchronous and unmediated (that is, “face-to-face” and in-person) context with a person/professional
of career interest to you. Your interview subject should work in a field and/or organization relevant to
your interests and/or values in order to allow you to explore career possibilities and reflect on the
experience in relation to your goals.
This assignment is not about asking for a job; it is not about “branding” or “marketing” yourself. Rather,
the assignment is a challenge for you to apply a variety of communications, research, and networking
skills in order to effectively explore your career goals and thoughtfully engage with the expertise of a
generous and talented professional. If this assignment can be said to be about any one end goal or
purpose, it may be best understood as being about making an acquaintance through empathic
understanding—and, potentially, cultivating a friendship—with neither any expectations nor in
anticipation of any extrinsic rewards beyond the experience and the conversation itself.
All components of this assignment must be submitted individually in DOC or DOCX format (no PDFs): 12
point Times type face, one inch margins, double-spaced, and only via D2L. Assignments not meeting this
criteria will not be graded until corrected, and may result in a late penalty.
Your work developing, delivering, and reflecting on the informational interview is worth 15% of your
overall grade in the course. The assignment will be evaluated at several points during the semester, and
will consist of the following components:
1. Due September 20 (week 3). Cold Call / Email Strategy developed
Due September 20 (week 3). Candidate Pool identified
While I recognize that these interviews will need to happen when your interview subject’s schedule and
yours align to allow for a face-to-face meeting, there are nevertheless deadlines that must be observed:
1. By September 20 (week 3) you must have identified at least three (3) potential candidates (the
“Candidate Pool”) for your informational interview – this is Part 1
Informational Interview: Components
1. Cold Call / Email Strategy – 20% (3% of course grade)
Regardless of whether you plan to phone or email, a one or two paragraph “script” of
what you will say or write your Informational Interview candidate(s)
Consider telling them (in some order): about the assignment, about your interest in
them, who you are, how you found out about them, and so on
What is your follow up if they agree? If they decline?
2. Candidate Pool – 10% (1.5% of course grade)
A list of at least three (3) potential candidates for your informational interview
Refer to the “tips” section below for strategies on identifying and prioritizing these
Informational Interview Tips
Consider ways of identifying and researching candidates for an informational interview. How have
others done it? What criteria have they, and should you, utilize to help make decisions and take action?
Time Frames and Short- and Long-Term Career Goals
As the assignment overview states, this is intended to get you in touch with someone of “career
interest.” Consider how you might frame this interest in deciding on candidates to speak with: early-
career or mid-career? With someone who continues to work in sociology, or someone who has ventured
beyond? In terms of what you would like to be doing in 12 months, two years, or five years? And so on.
Framing and Asking Questions
Consider the kind of conversation you would like to have with your partner over a “Coffee Chat” /
Informational Interview. What are your goals in conducting the interview? What are their goals for being
interviewed? How can you frame questions that are likely to achieve the kind of conversation that
achieves both of your goals? How will you prepare to respond to questions your partner will likely ask
you in return?
Consider the kinds of notes you might make of your conversation. In addition to taking note of the
practical information you would like to learn about, how can you exercise your ethnographic and
observational research skills? What else about the experience is potentially noteworthy, and that you
might later reflect on? What is appropriate for the context: typing on your smartphone? Doodling in a
sketchbook? Jotting in a pocket notebook?
Your Safety and Well-Being
Meeting anyone new for the first time can be daunting, but for some people under certain
circumstances it can also feel threatening. To help ensure your security and safety, consider doing the
1. Familiarize yourself with the neighbourhood you are to meet in prior to the date and time of
2. Insist on meeting in a public space.
3. Avoid accepting last-minute changes to your interview time or location. Offer to reschedule
4. Meet only during school / business hours.
5. Bring any concerning communications and unusual requests to the attention of your TA or
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