Many job seekers are familiar with the process and preparation for a job interview, but one of the most useful tools while seeking employment is known as an informational interview. In this type of interaction, the job seeker interviews a professional from the industry which he or she is trying to become a part of. This aids not only in understanding the field more thoroughly, but also builds networking connections and general interview experience.
Conducting an informational interview can be daunting, particularly if you’re not very experienced in the process. You typically have a fairly limited amount of time to learn as much as you can from an individual about his or her line of work. There are literally hundreds of good informational interview questions to bring to the table, but you’ll have to choose a handful which you feel will return the most useful knowledge.
There are several types of individuals who can benefit from an informational interview, such as:
One of your highest priorities before sitting down with someone should be selecting a strong batch of informational interview questions. You want to make the most out of the opportunity and show your interviewee that you value his or her time by asking thoughtful questions which will benefit you in your career development.
Informational interview questions can be generally centered on the career field as a whole, targeted to focus on a specific job or department, or even focused on the specific individual you’re talking with. It’s a good idea to strive for a mix of questions to gain insight into different facets of the career you’re aiming for; learning about the job is one thing, but understanding the career path and challenges of a real live person can deliver a much deeper kind of knowledge.
A few examples of general industry questions might include:
Compare those informational interview questions with the following inquiries which relate more to specific jobs and individuals:
It’s also advisable to avoid redundant or similar lines of questioning, such as inquiring about challenges in the industry and later asking what are some of the reasons that workers seek career changes. Again, remember to show that you value the time being given by your interviewee.
While having a good crop of informational interview questions at the ready is critical, don’t forget the basic aspects of personal preparation. Keep these ideas in mind in order to put your best foot forward, which is not only a professional consideration, it’s also good if you plan to network with your interviewee in the future:
When the interview is complete, be sure to thank the individual for his or her time. If you can obtain referrals to further extend your network, that’s certainly beneficial. Regardless, it’s courteous to also send a quick thank-you note or card within that same week. Not only does this extend your gratitude, it helps you gain exposure and appear professional. Always remember to include your contact information along with your signature.