20 Questions to Ask During an Informational Interview
This is a guest blog post written by Campus Ambassador Sydney Krassen.
Informational interviews are one of the most underutilized resources among college students. While informational interviews are not geared towards obtaining a specific position, they can be a valuable learning experience and can help students decide on majors or career goals, find a mentor, or gain experience talking to executives. While it can be intimidating to initiate an informational interview, there is nothing to lose by putting yourself out there. IQ Campus Ambassador, Katie Milliken, blindly emailed a professional for an informational interview that yielded amazing results. After calling her back and talking, the professional told her to keep in touch if she wanted a job in the future! Never be afraid to ask! To make informational interviews less intimidating, be prepared. Dress professionally and bring a resume and clean notebook. Most importantly, bring a list of questions to guide the conversation. To get started, here’s a ist of 20 potential questions to guide the conversation:
1. Tell me a little bit about your background. How did you get started in the field?
2. Did you always know that you wanted to do this? What other paths did you consider?
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
4. What is the one thing you spend the most time on?
5. What is the most important thing you are in charge of?
6. What skills are most important for this field? For your position specifically?
7. Is there anything that would set me apart or is especially valuable to know?
8. What kinds of challenges do you encounter?
9. What kind of work-life balance does this position offer? The field overall?
10. What is the structure of your organization? Who do you supervise and who is your supervisor?
11. How long to employees stay in their positions at the company? In the field in general?
12. What is your upward mobility? Is there a lot of opportunity for career advancement in this field?
13. What do entry-level jobs in this field involve?
14. Where do you think the field is headed?
15. What professional organizations are beneficial for this field? What experiences stand out among job candidates and current employees?
16. Is there anything else you wish you had studied in school that would have prepared you for this job? Is there anything you wish you had taken for fun?
17. Why do you enjoy working at the company?
18. Is there anyone else you suggest I talk to knowing my interests and skills?
19. What are other resources for finding out information about this field?
20. Is there any last advice you can offer me?
Here are a few other tips when planning for an informational interview:
Order Questions Logically. Order your questions in a natural way so that the interview will feel more like a discussion rather than a question and answer session.
Manage Time Wisely. Typically, informational interviews are under 30 minutes, so prioritize and know which questions you do not want to leave unanswered. Try putting stars next to the most important ones so they are easy to find if you begin to run out of time.
Say Thank You. If an executive is generous enough to take time out of their day, make sure they know that you appreciate it. Don’t forget to send a thank-you note after the meeting (here at IQ we love hand written ones!) and keep in touch. You never know where it can lead!
Do you have a favorite question to ask during an informational interview? Have you had a particularly beneficial experience you would like to share? Let us know in the comments!