Informational Interviews: Questions to Ask

Have you ever had a dream job or a job you really wanted, but didn’t know how to get started in looking for it?  An informational (or information) interview is when someone looking for a job meets with someone else in their target company or industry and asks for career or industry advice, but not directly for a job. An informational interview can be very helpful from both an information and networking perspective.  It’s a great way to get some helpful information and, at the same time, is a chance for the other person to feel like an “expert”.  Even though it should be a somewhat informal meeting, you should come prepared with some relevant questions.  Here are some suggestions to ask the person you meet:

Individual’s experience/current job

  • What would you say are the best steps to take in this career path?
  • What interested you most about this industry and your company?
  • What would you do differently if you were starting over today?
  • What do you see as possible next steps for you? What career expectations do you have in the short and long term?
  • What are you most excited or concerned about regarding this industry/company/career path in the future?
  • What would you do if you were looking for a job tomorrow?
  • What are your main responsibilities?
  • What do you do in a typical day or week? How much time are you in meetings, on telecons, traveling, etc.?

Their company and industry

  • What would you do differently if you were in charge of your company?
  • What do you see as the biggest competitive challenge for your company?
  • What have been your biggest surprises in this area of work?
  • What are the common misconceptions about working in this field?
  • What motivates you to continue on in this company/industry?
  • What worries you about this company/industry?
  • What challenges are there regarding hiring practices in this company/industry?
  • Can you recommend others I can talk to about this field?

 Skills needed

  • What skills have been most critical to your success?
  • What weaknesses in a person’s skill set would make him or her struggle in this company/industry?
  • What are the most valuable skills in your job? Which experiences enabled you to develop these skills?
  • How do you keep your skills current?  What type of training seminars do you attend?  What do you read?  What professional associations do you belong to?

Informational interviews can be a great tool in helping you plan your next career move, and establish a clear and focused career path.  Make sure to check out Target Training’s seminar on interviews as well.  What other good questions or tips have worked well for you?  Let us know in the comments section below.