The 5 Questions I Ask in Informational Interviews
I cannot tell you how many incredible opportunities informational interviews have opened up for me.
As someone in the beginning stages of her career, I am always looking to learn from those with more knowledge, connect with inspirational people, and challenge myself to grow in new ways. And I’m now frequently on the other side of the table, and am so thrilled to help others discover their careers and passions.
Informational interviews are not just for finding a job (although they are certainly helpful). Networking with someone new when you’re transitioning in your career, when you’re stuck, when you’ve moved to a new city, or simply because someone you’ve heard of seems really interesting all all fantastic reasons to learn from a new connection.
When I was a senior in college — discovering what I wanted to do, where I wanted to work, and how I was going to get there — I met a new person every week in my perspective field and picked their brain. I cannot thank them enough for their incredible generosity.
On my blog, I’ve taught you how to network from your couch, how to land a job when you’re not quite qualified, and how to make informational interviews fun. Needless to say, I have a lot of experience under my belt building these types of relationships.
If you’ve ever wanted to ask someone out for coffee and have no idea where to start, these questions act as a great jumping off point.
1. What sorts of experiences have characterized your career journey?
Sometimes the greatest career turns are the ones you never could have expected (I talk about this in my recent episode of Women Killing It!).
Asking this in an informational interview can open you up to unexpected, exciting opportunities and leave you feeling inspired to embrace the curve balls life throws.
And remember, landing a job is just the first step in an incredibly unpredictable and exciting life-long path — embrace the ambiguity!
2. What does your day-to-day look like?
A perfect question for getting an insight into your interviewee’s typical job life and daily tasks.
If you’re looking at their field or company as a possible next step, you’ll get a great view of what life there might be like — fast paced, with new tasks every few hours? Or more consistent, with bigger projects that take time? It’s a great chance to discover if someone’s field is right for you.
3. How do you define success in your position?
Is it the number of clients? Traffic to a website? Implementing new projects? Being a compassionate team member? Seeing what constitutes success — both by company and their own standards — is key, as you’re able to see if it aligns with your values and where you see your future is heading.
4. What do you wish you knew at my age?
My all-time favorite question. Wisdom comes with experience, and if you’re speaking to someone older, chances are they have some great advice for how you can make the most of your youth (time is on your side!).
I’ve gotten some incredible answers that have allowed me to take risks, set goals, and have confidence moving forward.
If this person is the same age (or younger), a variation: “What do you wish you knew when you were in my similar position?”
5. Can you suggest the names of two or three other people I might contact for more information?
This question is actually the most important one you’ll ask during your entire interview. You’ll want to keep the conversation going with your interviewee. (Unfortunately, an informational interview is not a “one and done” experience, but instead the first step towards an awesome relationship.)
You also want to keep growing your network — who best to introduce you to another great resource than the person sitting in front of you!
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I promise: as scary as they may be, informational interviews are one of the easiest things you can do for your career.
And remember, this person is being extremely generous with their time and resources — buy their coffee and sincerely thank them; and then keep in touch.