Informational interviews are the perfect way to get a better idea of a position or a company while simultaneously positioning yourself for any future job openings. The interview is mostly a chance for you to expand your knowledge and get a better feel of a job or industry, but the person you’re talking with will likely be taking stock of your professional potential, too.
This person probably has a wealth of knowledge about the industry as well as connections that might help you in the future, so it’s important to make the most of the time you have. Though this type of interview is definitely less formal than a “regular” one, you should come equally as prepared. Here are some questions to ask during an informational interview that will launch you into a great conversation and make sure you’re hitting all the important points:
What got you interested in your career path?
Start off with something simple – an overarching question that will give you a good idea of who the person is professionally. Maybe they’ve known what they wanted to do since they were a kid, maybe it was because of a class in college, or maybe a professional connection started them on this path. It’s always worth knowing how they started out.
What’s something about your everyday tasks that might surprise people?
It’s not always clear from a job title what someone might actually do on an everyday basis. This is the perfect time to ask! Maybe there’s something not usually associated with their position or industry that they actually spend a lot of time engaging with.
What skills would one need to perform your job most successfully?
This question gets right to the point– what do I need to know how to do? Make sure to take good notes on their answer. They have real, firsthand experience on how to be successful in the position, and probably learned at least some of it through trial and error. Having a number of those skills when you apply for a related job in the future will definitely give you an upper hand.
Do you typically work more individually or as part of a team?
People tend to know if they like to work alone or with others more, so this question is a good one that will gauge if the position is for you. Maybe you thought it would be a lot more collaborative and will be surprised to find out a bulk of the work is a one-person job. Or vice versa, and you’ll be doing a lot more teamwork. Either way, this straightforward question will give you a lot of insight into how they do their day-to-day tasks.
How does your position work with other departments?
It might be interesting for you to gauge the cross-functionality of their position. Do they work a lot with the Marketing or Sales departments? The Product team? This will give you a better idea of how the overall company operates, too, and if it sounds like an environment you can see yourself working in.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Asking about the hardest part of their job will really give you a good idea of what they do. It’ll also be revealing to you– is that something you’re interested in handling? Does it sound exciting to you?
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Asking them what their favorite part of their work is an interesting question because it sparks some self-reflection for them. You’ll get a good idea of some of the best parts of the job and see if it aligns with your passions. What do they think is the most important part of what they do? The most rewarding?
Always ask if they can recommend another contact.
Maybe you’re not interested in the exact position the person you’re talking with has, so they might know someone who can give you a little more information. Maybe they also know someone who’s currently looking for an intern or looking to hire for a full-time entry-level job, so there’s really nothing to lose by asking this.
Remember that, ultimately, the informational interview is for you. You want to make sure that you’re getting a good grasp on the job or industry – it’s not every day that you have someone at your disposal to ask these questions to. It’s important to make a good impression, so coming prepared with smart questions, and ones they probably don’t get every day, will get them to think and will lead to a more fulfilling conversation. Don’t forget to send a friendly thank-you email and keep building your relationship with them. They or someone they know might get you your next job or internship!