What, exactly is an Informational Interview?
It is a fact finding mission of sorts.
Your ultimate goal of course is to get a good design job. However, this particular type of interview should not be arranged by asking for a job or that you are looking for a job. That could be a mistake because many potential employers will simply dismiss you by saying they aren’t looking to hire at the moment or that you don’t have enough experience, etc.
So, instead you arrange the meeting by asking for a chance to talk to a designer about how their particular design firm works, how do they work with clients, what kind of design do they do. Explain that you are a design student wishing to gain more information about the design industry. Some may still dismiss you, but you will have a much higher chance of speaking with professional designers about the profession of design.
If you do a little homework beforehand about the firm and who works there, their clients, and what type of design they specialize in you will no doubt have an interesting and stimulating conversation. This will be impressive to the person(s) you are speaking to and no doubt they will get around to asking you about your own interests in design and what you like to do. This is your chance to show one or two select pieces of your own or direct them to your website.
You now have “your foot in the door” so to speak. This does not guarantee you a job but it certainly increases your chances of doing so, or getting asked back for a full job interview at a later time. This might occur with them or they instead might refer you to someone else, which is also extremely valuable.
Where Do I look to find these People?
Look in design resources. The best and most respected ones are those that are some how associated with AIGA. Certainly look at the job listings posted on the AIGA web pages, but beyond that simply look at the AIGA membership list. Go to their web pages and see the type of work that they do.
Another source for good design job possibilities is through design publications. Communication Arts, Print, How and Wired magazines are by far the best of these. Look at the work that gets printed in them. Who created it? Where are they located? You get the picture.
A third source is do a search on Amazon for books on GD. Whose work is being represented in these books?
Finally, there are always employment agencies and career centers that post job openings.
In the end you must have impeccably clean presentations of your best work. You must know who you are speaking to and what they do. You must know your own work. You must be punctual for appointments and dress professionally. Be confident without being cocky, polite and courteous without losing your own voice. Listen and take notes. Ask questions. Persevere!