Interview

Informational Interviews – 15 Great Questions To Ask

Informational interviews are an excellent way to learn more about a position or a company from someone actively working in the role.

Informational interviews are an excellent way to learn more about a position or a company from someone actively working in the role. Although you’ve probably read lots of internet articles and skimmed through a bunch of job descriptions, nothing substitutes speaking with someone in the position.

In addition to this, informational interviews are a great way to end up on a company or department’s radar. Impressing the professional you’re speaking to means they’re going to think of you first when a position opens up. This helps a lot with the job search, including after graduation when looking for entry-level jobs.

If you haven’t already secured an informational interview, don’t fear. There are a few steps you can take to better your chances of locking one down.

Since you’re going to be cold emailing these professionals, it’s essential to include these pieces in your email:

  1. An engaging, concise subject line: “Aspiring [ROLE] Inspired By Your Career Path”
  2. Nobody wants to read an essay, especially if it’s from someone they don’t know. Keep your message two paragraphs or less. Can it be skimmed in 15-30 seconds?
  3. Very briefly (~ one sentence) describe who you are.
  4. Mention something unique to the professional you’re emailing, whether that be a recent accomplishment or where they went to college. If you can, mention something the two of you have in common. This basic psychology hack gets the person to relate to you and increases the chances they’ll want to help.
  5. Kindly ask for their help: “I was wondering if you have just 15 minutes for a quick phone call?”
  6. Be considerate of their schedule. Accommodate them first and foremost.
  7. Propose times that you’re free. Don’t make them do the work of sifting through their calendar to find times for you.

Using these tricks will help you lock in that interview!

How Do You Prepare For an Informational Interview?

It’s important to understand that you still need to show up prepared, even though this is different from a job interview. It’s your chance to impress the person on the other line and put yourself ahead of the pack.

Here are some important steps to take when preparing for this call.

Conduct Research

Look into the company, the role, and the individual you’re speaking with. Look at the company’s website and social media, and also peruse the professional’s LinkedIn. If you share anything in common, bring that up!

Be Prepared to Talk About Yourself

The professional will want to know why you’re speaking with them. What’s your story, and why do you want this role? This is an excellent time to highlight your strengths and why you think you’d be a great fit for this type of job, and it’s also a time to let your enthusiasm shine through.

Do a Qualification Audit

When talking about yourself and your strengths, highlight the ones that would best suit the role that interests you. It’s your time to show off! Analyze the job closely, particularly at the company your professional works at, and have relevant anecdotes of times where you applied the skills needed for this job.

15 Useful Informational Interview Questions

You’ve done your homework, but what questions do you ask on the call? Here are our top 15 sample questions.

Question 1: What relevant work experience should I get that will best prepare me for this career?

Especially if you’re in college or a fresh graduate, it’s important to understand what job or internship experience you should be getting to best set you up for this position. It’s likely that you’re not yet 100% qualified, and that’s okay, but you need to know how to prepare yourself for the responsibilities of this job.

Question 2: What’s the skill that all successful people in your position have?

Perhaps you have many qualifications for this job, or maybe you don’t, but either way, you want to know that one critical skill that people in this role know well.

If this isn’t a skill you currently possess, ask them what types of training or experience they got to build this skill (on-the-job, LinkedIn Learning, YouTube, etc.). You can then use similar methods to ensure you have this ability when the time comes to apply for the job.

Question 3: Is your work stable, or do your responsibilities change a lot?

There are two types of people: those who want their work to remain consistent and those who want a new task every day. You’re going to be one or the other, and you want work that aligns with your personality. Asking this question ensures the obligations of your typical day are ones you enjoy, whether stable or ever-changing.

Question 4: How much uncertainty do you have to navigate as part of this job?

Uncertainty can be challenging for people to handle, especially if they’re looking for a more structured work environment. These are the kinds of problems you want to uncover in an informational interview to understand whether this job fits the work environment you prefer.

Question 5: Is this role collaborative? Will I get to know my teammates?

Some people don’t mind getting work done by themselves; in fact, they do better that way. Others need to bounce ideas off their teammates. Determine which kind of person you are, and make sure the responsibilities of your job align with the level of collaboration you desire.

Question 6: What’s more important for the work you do: thinking creatively or following process?

Your interviewee can give insight into the type of thinker that does well in this role. How much flexibility you’ll need depends on whether you prefer thinking outside of the box or closely following predetermined processes. This is another question to help you determine if this job matches your personality traits.

Question 7: Are there many tight deadlines in your present position, or can you plan work out in advance?

Some of us are planners; others of us like to think on the fly. Whichever you are, ask your professional which situation they find themselves in more often: shifting priorities on a dime or checking tasks off their to-do list.

Question 8: Are there any related jobs or fields I might want to explore?

Any one person’s typical career path is distinct from another. Maybe there are other related jobs you want to try before exploring the position your professional is in. Regardless, the more opportunities you have for a job, the better! The final decision you make is unique to you.

Question 9: How many career advancement opportunities are there for professionals in your position?

Most people have ambitions, and they don’t want to be stuck in the same occupation their whole career. If you’re on the ambitious side, you’ll want more growth opportunities and would be unhappy if employees’ professional development isn’t prioritized. This person’s perspective will shed light on that.

Question 10: What’s the most significant piece of advice you’d give an aspiring professional who wants to be where you are today?

Advice is crucial. Learning from someone who’s doing the kind of work you want to do is the best way to get where you want to go. 

Listen to this person’s advice carefully. What talents do they have that serve them well? What do they wish they’d done differently? Are there any related fields or similar jobs they wish they’d considered?

Question 11: What’s changing in the sector you’re currently in? How will this career today be different in 5 years?

Those outside the industry likely aren’t aware of the changes happening in it. Maybe this position is going in a direction you hate, or perhaps it’s the opposite. Regardless, this is vital knowledge to get out of your informational interview.

Question 12: Do you have any recommendations for resources I should explore or other people I might want to talk to?

One informational interview is excellent, but it isn’t entirely comprehensive. The more resources you have at your disposal, the better, and a professional in the role should know what resources are the most fruitful.

Question 13: What kinds of people or personality traits thrive in this role?

Maybe you’re an analytical extrovert, but this position favors creative introverts. Asking this question will better help you gauge if your personal qualities are suited to the role. 

Question 14: Is there any other information or advice you want to give me that I haven’t asked about?

Even the most prepared interviewer could miss some critical questions. Open up the dialogue to let your interviewee fill in any gaps.

Question 15: Is it alright if you and I stay in touch?

Getting verbal permission to do this means you can comfortably reach out to this person every so often, whether via LinkedIn or over email. This is a great step in building your network.

How Do You End an Informational Interview?

Question 15 is the perfect way to end this interview, so don’t hop off the phone without it! Building your network with professionals whose interests align with yours is a significant asset when it comes time for the job search. 

Now that you’ve gotten permission to keep in touch with your interviewee, make sure to reach out to them every couple of months to ask how they are. This ensures they remember you and, if a position opens up, they think to contact you first.

And who knows, maybe the person you interviewed or someone they put you in touch with wants to be your mentor. Mentors are an excellent way to get a first-hand touchpoint with your desired industry. Additionally, they’ll keep you on track, advising you with your professional journey.

With these tips in mind, it’s time to go out there and crush your informational interviews. Best of luck!

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