What to Ask in an Informational Interview

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This series is dedicated to explaining the parts of an informational interview, an important step in dominating the job hunt

Congratulations, the personalized email you wrote landed you the interview.  Now it’s time to pick the brain of your interviewee and learn about the industry.

FindSpark Informational Interview

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Banares

Your nerves may go a little haywire before the person shows up.  Just remember to breathe and that this is the easiest, low pressure interview you will ever conduct.  Think about it like having a coffee with a friend.

When preparing for the interview, make sure to dress nicely.  You do not need to show up in a full suit, but an appropriate level of business casual is recommended.  Practice the questions you are going to ask so that you sound confident during the interview.

FindSpark Informational Interview

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Banares

Have a notebook with your list of questions written down and space to write your notes.  Personally, I invested in a leather portfolio that holds a writing pad, a pen, and has a space for my resume and business cards.  It’s also a good place to safely stash their business cards. Make extra copies of everything as they may want to share it once they get back to the office.

At the beginning of the interview, the person is going to want to know a little bit more about you then your email expressed.  If you have an elevator speech, you can start with that.

Make sure your list of questions are well thought out and appropriate.  If the story of how a business was founded is available on the website, asking the founder himself how he started the business will show you are not paying attention.  Instead ask, “I saw you credit your college professor with giving you the idea for your business.  Can you tell me more about that?”

If you’re having trouble thinking of questions, here are 10 questions to get you started.

  1. What made you pick this industry?
  2. What does a typical day look like for you?
  3. What do you predict happening in your field in the next 5 years? 10?
  4. How did you find your first job after graduation?
  5. When you look at resumes, what skills or experiences are you looking for?
  6. What is one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?
  7. Is there one piece of advice you’re happy you followed? What about one you’re glad you didn’t follow?
  8. What skillset helps you most in this industry?
  9. Do you have any recommendations on how I can be more involved with the industry?
  10. What is the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?

As they talk, take notes on what you find interesting.  Six months from now you may not remember the director’s advice on how to stand out in the market.  It will also be useful later when you write your thank you note.

FindSpark Informational Interview

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Banares

This interview should be a two-way conversation. When you find an appropriate time to share a story about you, take it!  But make sure you’re not dominating the conversation with how great you are either.

At the end of the interview, thank them again for meeting with you. If you have a business card, leave it with them.

Now, you’re ready for the follow-up process.

What’s your favorite question to ask during an interview? Share below in the comments.

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