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How to Get the Most Out of an Informational Interview | Hospitality and Tourism Management

 Informational interviews is one really good way to learn about people and different career paths in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry is super complex and has many different jobs in all 11 sectors of the industry. Starting out, it is hard to see how they are all connected and what career possibilities one has. There is no “one fits all” approach to a hospitality career.

This is why I started Savvy Hotelier: to bring all of these pieces together and clear the “hospitality career” fog for you to be able to see clearly where you could go and build your flexible path.

What informational interview are and are not

Informational interviews are a conversation initiated by yourself, as someone that wants to learn something, from someone else that is in the position to share their knowledge with you.

As a student, you can reach out to your professors to question them on their topic of expertise or professionals in the industry to ask them about their careers and day to day work.

Informational interviews are:

  • A way of connecting with people in the industry, professors and professionals

  • An opportunity to learn from someone with more experience and expertise

  • A chance to discover a new area of the industry and learn something new

  • A way to start building a personal relationship

But don’t take advantage of the precious time your professor has given you to score any special treatment, the intent of an informational interview must be curiosity.

Informational interviews are not:

  • A way of promoting yourself for the sole purpose of getting a job

  • A way to score better grades or favouritism with your professor

  • A way to get answers from your professor about the coursework

You’ve gotta make the most of your hospitality degree and your university, this is a great way to use your university name to connect with external professionals.

Preparing for an informational interview

Any informational interview has three parts:

  1. Preparation

  2. Interview

  3. Follow-up

Yes, you have to prepare. It might be the most important part of the process because you need to research the topic that you want to ask your professor and build an objective for the outcome of the interview.

Don’t go in empty-handed, you will waste their time and not get much out of it.

Preparation for an informational interview should include these 2 things:

  • The professor and their background - find them on LinkedIn and understand their career path. Be ready to reference that in your interview, showing that you came prepared.

  • The specific question that you want to ask their viewpoint on - make sure you have a specific question that you want to ask the professor, as an expert in that field. Research the current market or events and ask about their future insights on the industry impact or change. Be specific.

What to ask during an informational interview with your professor

You have 30min of your professor’s attention, use it wisely.

Before shooting your questions off, don’t forget to thank them for their time and attention, you know that they are busy so you appreciate the time taken to speak with you.

Categorise the questions you are asking them in two buckets: professional career and subject-specific.

Professional career questions are fairly generic but make sure to adapt them to the professors’ own career (that you researched) and the subject that they are teaching.

Three questions to ask a professor during an informational interview:

  1. What was the most impactful experience of your professional career? How did it impact you personally and professionally?

  2. What lead you to become a professor after X years in the hospitality industry?

  3. What decision did you make in life that was pivotal or essential to your career in the hospitality industry?

You can replace the “hospitality industry” and add in specifications that are relevant for the professor i.e. events, restaurants, revenue.

The second category of questions will be the result of your preparation and research. If you are speaking to a professor of Event Management, your questions will be different than if you are speaking to a professor of Revenue Management.

Two kinds of subject-specific questions to ask in an informational interview:

  • The future of the hospitality industry or a specific sector (link) considering the X and Y change over the past X years.

  • A very specific challenge in one area of the subject of their expertise. For example, the increasing competition between independent coffee shops in your local city; the uber-isation of the marketplace and the growing challenges that face the X business sector.

Remember, do not ask them a specific question to get a better grade on an assignment or exam.

Make sure that anything subject-specific that you ask, you have your own opinion about.

Form your own point of view during your research and preparation phase, but hold it loosely, because you are speaking to the professor to learn from them, so be ready to learn and change your view.

Show that you did your research, that you are curious and interested, and that you are proactive about your career, education, and are overall interested to learn more.

Always follow up with the professor after the informational interview

Make sure you follow up with a note, thanking the professor for their time and expertise.

Sending a short thank you referencing the conversation you had shows good business etiquette and reminds the professor once again that you are curious and passionate.

You have now built a great new connection that could either introduce you to another professional in the industry, your field of choice or provide you with a recommendation.

In conclusion

Looking at the hospitality career of a professor and understanding how they progressed to where they are now, will bring you insight into how a career path could look like.

Understanding one person’s career path will help you get a sense of the hospitality industry careers.

Being proactive in reaching out to professors at your university and professionals in the industry will help you paint a picture of your potential future career path. What kind of jobs there are and how to progress.

Being curious and talking to many different people in different hospitality sectors and different jobs is key to being able to draw your own career path.


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