Updated: Mar 8, 2020
Informational Interviews can be a great way to get to know a person, a role, or an organization and they serve an important networking function. The interview is a chance for you to ask some candid questions that can help inform you about fit, interest, and desire to break into a new role. The following questions (an rationale) are a great starting place for developing an interview protocol:
1: Can you tell me a bit about your career path and what led you to the role you're in today? An informational interview is about the other person. Not you. So this question is a great choice to get them talking about the journey that brought them to their current role.
2: What were some of your early roles in the field? You want to include this type of question because chances are, this person had an interesting journey that paved the way to the current place. This question is meant to help you get an idea of where you'll need to start if you're new in the field.
3: What does a typical work day/week look like for you? This question is the best opportunity you'll have to see what every day is like. Are the hours 14+ hours a day? Is the role remote? Are there heavy team building opportunities? Use this information as a threshold for what you're comfortable with incorporating into your own work life.
4: What do you enjoy most about the work you do? / What are you most excited about right now? These are great questions that get at the heart of the role. You'll most likely hear some unexpected answers and if what they are describing as exciting jives with your idea of exciting you might consider this role even further.
5: What do you enjoy the least? Or, is there something that surprised you about the role when you first started? Sometimes, you'll get someone who is willing to get candid about the downsides of their job, their employer, or the industry as a whole. Still, if the person starts to balk about talking about their least favorite element ("I really like everything I do"), you can shift the question to what surprised them instead.
6: What skills do you think are most important for someone interested in a job like yours? Take careful note of the skills that the person mentions, especially the ones you don't technically have. You'll want to use this information to fill gaps in your skill set before applying for similar jobs.
7: What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out in this career/role? Again, learn from the person and their insights. After all, hindsight is 20/20.
8: Do you have any recommendations for other people I should talk to or other resources I should explore? If you're lucky, they'll introduce you to another contact. But it's also great to just hear what sites you should be reading or newsletters you should subscribe to. The goal is to have some ideas of what to read/do/try next.
9: Are there any questions I'm not asking that I should be? Love this question. Sometimes you've missed a big element of the work simply because you didn't ask in quite the right way. See what they say here about what they find to be important.
10: Would it be alright for us to stay in touch? Whether that's through LinkedIn or through an occasional email, an informational interview is an opportunity to create an ongoing networking connection or (in an ideal scenario) a potential mentor.