Informational interviews gather data about career paths, kinds of work, and what the day-to-day of any job might be.
Some things to ask:
- What type of work does one do in this role?
- What kinds of decisions are made daily?
- What is worked on in a typical day?
- Are there meetings?
- Do they work individually, in teams, and/or on projects?
If you’re speaking with an entry-level person, they can give you information about starting with that company. When talking to somebody more tenured, they may provide more professional experiences in their career path. This can be used for internship, full-time, shadowing experiences, and more.
Be curious about the job search process in their company. Ask how they navigated that process and what kinds of interview questions their company asks.
Research the company’s Twitter, LinkedIn, and website. Social media can be a plethora of information to identify and put together customized, interesting, and authentic questions.
Questions Not To Ask In An Informational Interview
It’s inappropriate to ask a person about their or anyone else’s salary at the company. It’s also improper to ask for personal information, for example, if they’re married or have children.
Don’t ask for help in writing your resume, cover letters, or your LinkedIn profile. You can ask for a review, but not to help rewrite them.
Don’t ask them to help you get you a job. This is about gathering information for your professional development.
Preparing For An Informational Interview
There are three parts to an informational interview:
1. Your Introduction
Tell them about yourself professionally. Two to three minutes at the most allows for who you are and why you’re seeking their advice. Outline it succinctly so that they comprehend it immediately. They generally only have 15 to 20 minutes to spend with you.
2. Your Questions
Know what you’re looking for and be ready to have secondary questions that might be generated once the person answers.
3. Wrapping It Up
Thank them and ask if they would be open to connecting via LinkedIn and/or if they’d be open to you updating them occasionally during your job search process.
The Top Five Questions To Ask
- What are the characteristics of a successful person in this company, and the roles I’m interested in?
- What things could the company provide to help me be successful, such as continuing education?
- Depending upon where this person is in their career, ask what the longer-term career path for somebody with your background could be. If they’re more senior, rephrase the question: how did they get to where they are?
- What’s the most challenging thing they’ve faced in this role or the company? What’s the most challenging aspect of their role?
- What have I not asked that you think I should know? That’s a great open-ended question because there’s probably something they want to tell you that you haven’t asked.
The Difference Between Questions Asked in an Informational Interview and a Job Interview
The big difference between an informational interview and a job interview are the words “informational” and “job.” In an informational interview, you’re gathering information on a broader spectrum. You’re isolating information regarding this company, or industry, as a career choice that aligns with your motivations, values, qualities, and characteristics. In a job interview, you’re discussing a specific job and they’re interviewing you as you’re interviewing them. In a job interview, your questions are more specific to that role, that company, and that culture versus a broader scope. You’re trying to understand the likelihood of you moving forward in the process and are directed more towards an outcome.