The Best Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview

Chances are if you’ve been thinking about a career change of some kind, you’ve probably read about the importance of reaching out to contacts for informational interviews. I frequently hear from clients that they dread asking for informational interviews because they feel selfish “asking for a job.” An important thing to keep in mind when conducting informational interviews is that you are not asking for a job, you’re simply asking for information.

So what types of questions should you ask? While your questions should always be targeted to the person you are speaking with, the list below should give you a solid selection to choose from.   

ABOUT THE PERSON:

  • How did you get where you are in your career? (Be sure to incorporate information you may have found online through sites like LinkedIn before asking this blanket statement. For example: I know you previously held a similar role at XYZ Company. How did you end up in this position?)
  • What do you enjoy most about your work?
  • What experiences best prepared you for your job?
  • What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
  • What type of problems do you regularly face in your position?
  • How does your current position fit into your ideal career trajectory?

ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION:

  • What is a typical career path in this organization?
  • How would you describe the organizational culture? How does it compare to XYZ Company?
  • What makes someone a “good fit” at this organization?

ABOUT THE INDUSTRY:

  • What are common job titles for entry/mid-level positions in this field?
  • What changes do you predict will happen in the field in the next 3-5 years?
  • What current issues or trends in the field should I be aware of?
  • What skills, education, or personal characteristics are needed to successful in this field?

NEXT STEPS:

  • What journals or professional associations would be helpful for my professional development?
  • Is there anyone else that you recommend I speak to?
  • What advice do you have for someone hoping to start his or her career in this industry now?

Use this list as a starting place to branch out and come up with other more specific questions for your next informational interview. Keep in mind the background of the person who you will speaking with and what types of questions they will be best suited to respond to. And to fully prepare yourself, be sure to download my full informational interviewing guide which walks you through the whole process of reaching out, conducting the interview, and following up.