Interviewing

Informational Interview Questions

January 7, 2021

If you are considering a career change or are entering the job market for the first time, you may have questions about what it's like to work in the role you're interested in. Informational interview questions can help you find out about a job's background information, what you need to succeed, how to get started in the industry and much more. In this article, we describe what informational interview questions are, their benefits and several sample questions to help you prepare, succeed and get a good start in your chosen industry.

What are informational interview questions?

Informational interview questions are directed to an employer by people interested in working for a company or industry. An informational interview with someone who works in a profession you are interested in or a business that you'd like to work at lets you learn more about the role and the company. In this informal discussion, you can ask about a professional's daily experiences and the qualifications that helped them get the job. You can also get expert advice, tips on how to find similar positions and ways to prepare for the role.

An informational interview is not a part of the traditional hiring process. Instead of sharing your skills and background with a potential employer, you should use it to ask questions and find out more about a particular profession or company. Conducting one or more informational interviews at the beginning of a job search can help you succeed.

The benefits of an informational interview

Contacting a professional who currently works in a job or industry that interests you has many benefits. Here are a few reasons why asking informational interview questions could help your career:

  • Getting first-hand experience. Conducting an informational interview will help you understand all the details of a job from someone currently in the role. Listening to the perspective of an individual with relevant experience can highlight certain aspects of the position that you might not learn about from a job description. Interviewees could discuss common challenges they face, details they enjoy about their work and their work histories, among other relevant topics.
  • Learning tips and advice for succeeding in the role. A professional working in a role you're considering can offer useful guidance to help you find, prepare for and do well in your future job. For example, they might explain how to overcome obstacles, how to perform specific duties or the positions they held before being promoted to their current role.
  • Discovering what employers are looking for. When you are preparing to apply for jobs, knowing what skills and talents are in the highest demand can be helpful. You can highlight these abilities in your resume to encourage job search software to send your profile to recruiters and hiring managers. That way, you could get more invitations to interviews and may be able to impress your interviewers more often. Knowing what employers are looking for can also help you identify areas that need improvement before you start your job search.
  • Determining whether you want a similar job. An informational interview will give you a good overview of what a typical day working in a certain job is like and what the responsibilities are. This can help you decide whether the role has the requirements you're suited for. Otherwise, you can reach out further and learn about the similar jobs you may prefer instead.
  • Building your professional network. Meeting professionals in a field you might pursue will help you build your network. Conducting an informational interview gives you an opportunity to establish a relationship with a future mentor or an employee who might recommend you to open jobs.

How to ask for an informational interview

To perform an informational interview, you will need to find a professional who works in the field or at the company you're considering. Here are some steps for setting up an informational interview:

  1. Create a list of all the major businesses in the industry you want to pursue.
  2. Ask people within your own network of colleagues, mentors, former teachers or classmates if they know anyone in the role you want to learn more about.
  3. If no one you know has any contacts, try contacting the recruiting departments of the companies on your list. Ask them if they can put you in touch with someone who works in the role you're interested in.

Example email of an informational interview request

Here's an example an email you could send when contacting a professional for an informational interview:

Subject Line: Informational interview request

My name is Rebecca Smith, and I recently graduated from York University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. I am interested in pursuing a career as a financial analyst, and my former professor, Dr. David Trainor, suggested I contact you to learn more about this profession.

I would love to learn more about your experience as a senior financial analyst for Aurora Management Consultants and all your previous roles. I would also be grateful for any advice you might have for a new graduate who wants to get into the industry. We can meet for coffee sometime next week, or I'd be happy to talk by phone instead if that would be more convenient.

Thank you very much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rebecca Smith

York University class of 2018

Related: How to Write a Professional Email

11 questions to ask in an informational interview

Before the informational interview, determine which details of the role you want to learn more about so that you can ask targeted questions. Here are some questions that can help you get insight into the role you want:

1. What educational background do people typically have in this role?

This question will help you understand whether you have completed the right courses or obtained the correct degree or certifications to qualify for the position you want. If you do not have the qualifications you need, you can make plans to get them.

2. What professional experience do people typically have in this role?

In addition to education, many jobs require relevant experience. For example, if you're interested in pursuing a career as a social media manager, you may need experience in managing a company's social media presence as an entry-level coordinator or an intern.

3. How would you recommend getting started in this profession?

Some positions are highly competitive, and the professional you interview can tell you about the best ways to get noticed to increase your chances of getting hired. For example, they could recommend earning extra certifications, developing a unique skill set or meeting people who are important in the industry.

4. What are some of the most in-demand skills for this position?

Employees often need to learn and adapt as industries change. If you can identify which skills that organizations need the most, you can develop your proficiency in those areas before you start applying for job opportunities.

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

5. What are some of the most in-demand personal characteristics for someone in this position?

Having the right personality traits can make someone a great fit for a job. By finding out which characteristics are the highest in demand, you can identify which of your attributes align with the ones needed for the job. This will allow you to highlight these on your resume.

Related: A Guide to Soft Skills

6. What is a typical workday like?

Talking with someone who currently has the role can tell you precisely what kinds of tasks, projects or assignments will take up the majority of your time. If you've had experience doing similar or related work, you can emphasize these when you update your resume.

7. What technologies should people be familiar with to succeed?

Finding out which tools or types of software applications you will need in your prospective job prior to your actual job application can give you a chance to become more familiar with them. These skills may not be required to qualify for a position, but they could help you perform your duties more efficiently and reduce the amount of training you'll need.

8. What is most fulfilling experience in this profession?

Identifying the best parts of the job will help you stay motivated by letting you know what you can look forward to. For example, you may learn the position will give you the ability to help people in need, work on meaningful projects or exercise creative abilities. Having this information also gives you useful talking points for job interviews.

9. What are some of the most common challenges people face in this profession?

While every job faces certain challenges, knowing these details will help you prepare for the particular position you are pursuing. It might also help you when interviewers ask about how you have overcome obstacles in the past.

10. What are the opportunities for advancement in this role?

Understanding what the next steps might look like before you launch a new career will help you ensure you're on the right track. For example, you may learn that moving up in a particular line of work requires an advanced degree or specific set of experiences. The sooner you know, the sooner you can begin preparing for your future.

11. How have you seen people succeed at this company?

Even if you're not looking for a job at your interviewee's company specifically, understanding how people in the position succeed can help you set benchmarks for yourself. For example, if the person you speak with explains that most successful people in their company meet and collaborate with other teams on a regular basis, you can start improving your interpersonal skills.

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