Informational Interview: Questions and Successful Strategies
The informational interview… this may be uncharted territory for you. What is it? An informational interview is a meeting where a job seeker searches out advice on their career or the entire industry of a potential workplace; while a currently employed professional learns about the job seeker and determines their potential or fit in that workplace, and by so doing increases their candidate pool for future hires. It can be tricky to get your foot in the door and schedule an Informal Interview with a perspective employer; however it can prove to be time well spent.
Strategies for Requesting the Interview
Requesting the interview may not be as difficult as you originally thought. People generally love to talk about themselves and you need to take advantage of that. Warm them up. Be friendly and inquisitive about what skills they have and what is required to get a foot in the door. Get a conversation going with questions like, how did they get their start in this field and what is an average day like. Then move onto the reason you would like to meet with them. Using phrases such as, “would you be able to help me with this?” may prove to be powerful as most people generally do like to help one another. It is harder to tell someone that you can’t help them, right?
You should also be prepared to talk about yourself, your experience and goals right from the get go. You never know when they are going to turn the tables and start asking you questions to ensure that it is worth their time to meet with you. Go into this conversation well prepared. This is a great chance to make a positive first impression.
Worthwhile Questions for the Informational Interview
Upon arriving at your Informational Interview, don’t forget to thank the Interviewee again for their willingness to take the time to meet with you. They are doing you a favor; it’s as simple as that. Be gracious and thankful. It wouldn’t hurt to also remind them that you are hoping to gather all the information you can about this industry and career field, remember to be informal.
As the interview begins, don’t forget that time will fly, you won’t have the time to ask all the questions that you have. Try to keep the conversation focused, however, use every minute wisely. As you prepared for this interview you should have organized your questions by priority and importance. Make sure to get at least the most helpful and pressing questions answered first.
Example Informational Interview Questions:
- How did you become interested in this line of work?
- How did you get started?
- What other employment or past experience proved helpful to get into your current position?
- What are the skills you find to be the most important in this field?
- What made you choose this particular company?
- What is your typical day like?
- What types of responsibilities and duties do you have?
- What kind of problems do you deal with on a day to day basis?
- What are the best parts?
- What are the worst?
- Approximately what is the range of salary for a similar position?
- Is the work steady and consistent or does it vary from time to time?
- What is the most satisfying part of your job? Do you find it fulfilling and challenging?
- What types of hours or time constraints are involved?
- What demands are placed on your time outside of the average work week?
- Is there any flexibility with scheduling, dress, vacation times, etc.?
- Are there opportunities for advancement and growth? What are your long term goals?
- What types of opportunities for professional development does the company provide?
- Does the future of the company look bright?
- What is the atmosphere like in the company? Is it friendly or cut-throat, etc?
- What is the average length of time that people stay with this company?
- Are there incentives for staying long-term?
- With the information you have about me, what other fields or positions would do you recommend I research further before making a final decision?
- Do you have any information about possible future job openings?
- What types of benefits are offered by your company? Is that above or below normal for this industry as far as you are aware?
- If you could do it all over again, is this still the path that you would take? What would you change?
- What advice would you give someone looking into this profession or field?
Wrapping Up Your Informational Interview
As you can see, the questions could go on and on. You need to keep them focused on what is important to you. What stage of life are you in? Are you a student just trying to get that first important position right out of college or are you attempting to make a career change years after entering the work force. You know what matters the most to you personally and those are the areas that you need to focus on. Don’t make the mistake of just assuming that the conversation will flow once you are there and then hoping to remember all that was discussed. Be PREPARED with your questions, take notes, and tune in. This type of opportunity doesn’t come around often, make it count. And, of course, don’t forget to follow your informational interview with a kindly worded, heartfelt thank you note!