5 Great Strategies for Informational Interviews (Plus 14 Questions to Ask)
On the hunt for the ideal job? An informational interview may be the right next step for you. By asking the right informational interview questions, you can gather valuable knowledge about an industry, position, or company. This can help you determine not only whether the job or field is right for you but also how to best improve your skills and competencies to succeed and land a job.
Once your informational interview questions dig up a wealth of knowledge, you can work on composing the perfect resume and cover letter. For maximum chances of success, you should enlist the help of a professional resume writer.
For help coming up with the best informational interview questions, read on.
1. Secure an interview
Obviously, the first step in the process is to secure an informational interview in the first place. This will involve researching companies and job titles you’re interested in. Once you’ve found a list of suitable businesses and positions, you can start looking for the appropriate people to pose your informational interview questions to. These people have no obligation to help you, so if they agree, be extremely polite and friendly with them. Don’t be pushy or sound desperate for a job. Let them know you simply want their help.
The more personal you can make the request, the better, so if you’re impressed with their career or performance, make sure to let them know. Just don’t go overboard—it has to be genuine.
2. Recognize that an informational interview is not a job interview
This is an important distinction you need to make. Unlike in a job interview, where the interviewer gauges your suitability for the position and the company, the informational interview questions you ask are designed to help you gauge the suitability of the field or position for yourself. The primary goal is gathering information, so don’t turn it into an opportunity to beg for a job.
If you ask well-articulated and specific informational interview questions, you can subtly convey the information you want your interviewee to know without being pushy, and you can receive high-quality information that can aid you immeasurably in your job hunt. Don’t be vague. Zero in on exactly the information you wish to know.
3. Prepare adequately
Informational interviews may not be job interviews, but in certain ways, they’re quite similar. You still need to put forth a professional front, so dress smart, show up on time (or better, early), and be polite and respectful when asking your informational interview questions.
It’s also vital to come up with good, well-thought-out informational interview questions before the interview. Your interviewee will be less than impressed if you’re unprepared and improvise the whole thing. They were generous enough to take time out of their busy day to talk to you, so be respectful of their time and have everything ready to go in advance.
4. Be flexible
Preparation is necessary, but don’t be rigid. You can integrate an openness to flexibility into your planning. While you’ll be the primary interviewer, presenting your best informational interview questions to the field expert, it’s possible they could respond back with some questions for you, as well. These are likely to resemble ordinary job interview questions, so while preparing the informational interview questions you’ll ask the interviewee, also take the time to study up on the most common job interview questions. That way, you’ll be ready for anything.
5. End on a good note
You want to leave the interviewee with a lasting positive impression, so how you end the interview counts for a lot. For one thing, you have to be respectful of their time, so if they need to end the interview early for some reason, be cooperative and wrap things up quickly. Once you’ve asked all your pertinent informational interview questions, try inquiring about additional contacts to help grow your network and perhaps gather even more information. Then, conclude the interview politely, thanking the interviewee for their time and generosity and extending your own offer for help, should they ever need it.
Then, once you get home, don’t forget to send them a heartfelt thank-you note for so kindly helping you. Your mission to leave a good impression doesn’t stop after you’ve asked all your informational interview questions.
Informational interview questions to ask
There’s no shortage of questions you could ask. These will depend on the field, your interviewee, and what you want to know. Don’t hesitate to get their personal opinion of their own jobs, as the insight can be valuable. Check out our list below for inspiration.
- How did you break into this field?
- Can you run me through a typical day at your company?
- Can you tell me about the projects you’re currently working on?
- What do you think about [development in the field]?
- What training did you receive for this position?
- What kind of career opportunities does this position open up?
- What are some challenges that often come up in this job?
- What is the most rewarding part of your job?
- What do you wish you could have done differently starting out?
- What drew you to this company as opposed to others in the industry?
- Have you always wanted to do this job?
- How can I best leverage my existing experience and knowledge for this industry?
- What would you advise someone looking to pursue the same career?
- What experiences, skills, and personality traits are most valuable to your company?
Informational interviews can be an indispensable source of knowledge that you otherwise couldn’t come across. This is a precious opportunity, so prepare properly and make the most of it. You might even find it helpful to practice your questions with the help of a mock interview session.
Following our guide will help you gather the information you need, and if you hire a professional resume writer to use what you learned to craft the ultimate resume, you’ll be that much closer to your dream job.