The power of informational interviews, and 30 simple but brilliant example questions!

Informational interviews are underutilised, yet have so much value and power in guiding career decisions. An informational interview is a one-on-one conversation with an individual that is working in a profession, company or industry that you desire to get into or gain more knowledge about. The main purpose of this type of interview is to gather information and advice – not to get or ask for a job (this is not to say it can’t lead to a job).

The informational interview has the following great uses;

  • To get an “insider” perspective on a company/profession/industry and learn about the realities of working in a particular field.
  • To increase your professional network.
  • To make a decision about pursuing a particular career.
  • Get insight on how to prepare for a particular career.
  • Discover careers you never knew existed.
  • Assess the fit between your personality, interests, skills, and values in relation to a specific career/industry/company.
  • Learn more about working for a specific company.
  • Practice your networking skills and build confidence.
  • Receive interview advice and practice interview skills without the pressure.
  • Can help you to find a mentor.

Here is a list of 30 simple but excellent questions to ask during an informational interview. It is obviously not feasible to ask all 30 questions in one session, and as such you can select five to ten questions you will use ahead of your informational interview, inline with the outcomes you are aiming for. The first nine questions are specific to high school students and the remainder for experienced professionals.

  1. What were your favourite school subjects?
  2. What did you like to do with your free time?
  3. What career did you think about when you were young?
  4. Did you follow the career path you dreamed about when you were young? Why or why not?
  5. What obstacles were in the way of your career path?
  6. What did your parents want you to do?
  7. Who helped you make your career decision?
  8. What did you learn in school that helped you the most?
  9. What skills did you learn in high school that you use in your work now?
  10. What do you enjoy the most about your job?
  11. Is there anything you dislike about the job?
  12. Tell me about a typical day at work?
  13.  If you had to break it up into percentages, how much time would you say you spend doing each activity?
  14. How did you get your job?
  15. What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position and can you suggest some ways a person could obtain this necessary experience?
  16. How does a person progress in this field?
  17. What is a typical career path in this field?
  18. What are the major qualifications for success in this occupation?
  19. How much demand is there for people in this occupation? How rapidly is the field growing?
  20. What obligations do you have outside of the ordinary work week? Are there evening meetings, or travel involved?
  21. What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field? What are the major rewards of this position, aside from things like money, fringe benefits, or travel?
  22. Are there any major frustrations of this job?
  23. How well did your tertiary education experience prepare you for this job?
  24. How important are grades for obtaining a job in this field?
  25. Are there any institutions you would recommend to obtain qualifications for this occupation?
  26. What abilities or personal qualities do you believe contribute most to success in this field/job?
  27. Are there any written materials you suggest I read? Which trade or professional journals and organizations would be helpful to me as I learn more about this field?
  28. What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?
  29. What kind of workplace do workers in this job operate within? Office towers, community centres, malls, their own home, noisy crowded workplaces, isolation, construction sites, outdoors, cold, heat, weather conditions if relevant?
  30. What sorts of changes are occurring in this occupation and how do you see this field changing in the future?

 

Informational interviews are an effective research tool and should be used in addition to other methods such as reading books, searching the internet and analysing job descriptions. They have numerous uses for professionals at various career intersections, whether looking to switch careers or work enter a particular industry.