Suggested Questions for Informational Interviewing
Probably the easiest way to leverage your network is through conducting an informational interview. An informational interview is an opportunity for you to ask questions of a person to gain insight and information. Informational interviews tend to be short (20-30 minutes) but they can be just the right amount of contact you need to start a meaningful connection.
A way to think about an informational interview is simply by asking for AIR. This is a way to remind yourself of some of the most important insights you might get from your network: Advice, Information, and Referrals.
Advice is about finding information that is personally helpful to you. It’s a way to get your network to help you strategize what are possible things you should do (or not do).
- How should I reach out to faculty to inquire about a research position?
- How can I stand out as an applicant?
- How did you find out about this opportunity?
Where advice is about you, information can provide additional insights that you might be able to leverage in exploration, planning, and decision making.
- What is a typical workday like for an intern in your company?
- What is the application deadline for this research opportunity?
- What percentage of interns receive return offers?
Finally, referrals allow you to navigate further beyond this conversation. Think of referrals as a way to seek out new resources and connections to help you move in new directions.
- What other companies should I explore that do this type of work?
- Is there someone you know that I might also benefit from talking to?
- What resources should I consider using to learn more about this?
Here are more informational interview questions you might want to ask.
- What are your major job responsibilities? If possible, could you describe what is in a typical work day or work week?
- What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most? What aspects do you not enjoy?
- How is your time divided between working with people, data, and things?
- How did you get into this field? Could you describe your career path?
- What are the typical entry-level jobs in this field? What are some possible career paths?
- How do most people enter this field?
- How would you describe your work environment?
- How much flexibility are you permitted in your job? How much autonomy do you have?
- How much work do you take home? How many hours do you work each week?
- Would a geographic move affect your career? If so, how and why?
- What are your biggest challenges or problems you have encountered at work?
- What are the challenges facing this industry today?
- Who do you consider to be the leaders (people, organizations, or concepts) in this industry? How do you view the current state of the industry?
- What changes do you see occurring in this field? Will the type and number of jobs change significantly over the next 10 years? What, if any, will the effect be of changing technology on this field?
- What do you wish you had known before you entered this field? What is the best advice you were given when entering the field?
- What are the minimum qualifications a person needs to enter this field? What did you do to get prepared for this field?
- Are there any professional groups in the field that you recommend I join or conference that you recommend I attend?
- Where might I find job descriptions and other specifications for some of the positions in this field? Do you have any suggestions on my job search strategy?
- What is the size and structure of your organization? What geographic locations have offices?
- How does the work of your group/division/office fit into the work of the overall organization? What is the average length of time employees stay with the organization?
- What type of formal on-the-job training is provided to new employees?
- Are the any questions I should have asked but did not?
- Do you mind if I stay in touch with you regarding my career search?
- Is there anyone else in the field with whom you would suggest I speak?
Informational interviews provide you, the interviewer, with many helpful details. When conducting an informational interview, be sure to take notes and take time afterwards to reflect on the information you have learned. At the conclusion, remember to say thank you and follow-up with a thank you email to the person you interviewed with.