Starting and managing your career has many aspects including continuing to discover what you can about the job(s) you are seeking and the industry. Many new graduates and mid-careerists have an idea what they would like to do in a job, but many times, really don’t have a clear picture of what the job actually does, the job’s position in the industry and how to move into the job. Informational interviews are great ways to not only learn about a company, but to also gather information about the career path you have chosen from a professional in the industry. Basically, they are great “reality checks” to compare what you think you know (or don’t know) against the real work environment.
I know very few professionals who will not participate in an informational interview. Most working professionals have been in the other person’s shoes trying to start a career or make a career change. As long as the interviewee follows some simple rules, the informational interview can be a great tool to help you in your decision-making process.
1) Don’t ask for a job
2) Make the session about the person you are interviewing
3) Act genuinely interested
4) Be prepared with questions and take notes
5) Send a thank you
Let’s focus on #4.
Six Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview.
1) Would you tell me a little about yourself? Ideally, find some common linkage to open the conversation. Example: I see we went to the same school, or I see you are from Maine. I’m from the Northeast as well. I’d love to hear your story.
2) What was your first job and the steps you forward took in your career?
3) What were pivotal moments in your career (or industry)- both good and bad?
4) What do you like most about your job (or your career)?
5) Conceptually, what do you see as the entry point for new graduates in the industry?
6) From your years of experience, what recommendations do you have for me?
Final thoughts. Do your homework on your professional. Read his/her profile on LinkedIn profile or do a simple web search. Research the company and be prepared to comment or ask a feeder question based on your research.
Know someone who needs help with their career search?