Do Informational Interviews Really Work?

Informational interviews can be a great way to expand your network and connect with people in a particular field of interest to learn more about a job, company, and industry. The idea is to set up brief meetings or phones call with friends, professional acquaintances and business bigwigs; however, I do caution you to be prepared so you don’t inadvertently waste their valuable time and leave them with a bad impression.

Informational interviews should be well planned out with specific questions prepared ahead of time. It is important to know what to say once you arrive so prepare an agenda before each meeting. Decide what you would like to find out from your contact, and then prepare questions to elicit that information.

Sample Questions

  1. Could you describe one of your typical workdays for me?
  2. What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?
  3. What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
  4. What do find most enjoyable?
  5. Are there any negatives to your job?
  6. How many hours do you work in a typical week?
  7. Which seasons of the year are toughest in your job?
  8. How would you describe the corporate culture?
  9. Is this field growing enough so that there’s room for someone like me?
  10. Are too many or too few people entering this profession?
  11. What developments on the horizon could affect future opportunities?
  12. This industry has changed dramatically in the past five years. What have you seen from inside your company? Where do you think the changes will happen in the next five years?
  13. How frequently do layoffs occur? How does it affect the morale of employees?
  14. Why do people leave this field or company?
  15. Who are the most important people in the industry today?
  16. Which companies have the best track record for promoting women and minorities?
  17. Are there opportunities for self-employment in your field? Where?
  18. What would be a reasonable salary range to expect if I entered this field? What is the long term potential?
  19. What is the advancement potential in the field? What is a typical path?
  20. How did you get your job?
  21. If you could start all over again, would you change your career path in any way? Why?
  22. How long does it take for managers to rise to the top?
  23. What is the background of most senior-level executives?
  24. What educational preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to advance in this field?
  25. What qualifications do you seek in a new hire?
  26. How do most people enter this profession?
  27. Which of my skills are strong compared to other job hunters in this field?
  28. What do you think of the experience I’ve had so far? For what types of positions would it qualify me?
  29. Can you recommend any courses I should take before proceeding further with my job search?
  30. What companies or industries do you think I should target?
  31. Do you think my objective is clearly stated, realistic and achievable?
  32. Considering my background, how well do you think I would fit in this company and/or profession?
  33. How does your company compare with others we’ve discussed?
  34. Would the work involve any lifestyle changes, such as frequent travel or late-night business entertaining?
  35. Considering all the people you’ve met in your line of work, what personal attributes are essential for success?
  36. Taking into account my skills, education, and experience, what other career paths would you suggest I explore before making a final decision?
  37. Where can I write to get up-to-date information on salaries, employers, and industry issues?
  38. What professional journals and organizations should I be aware of?
  39. Is there anything else you think I need to know?
  40. Who else would you recommend I speak with? When I call, may I use your name?

Source: University at Buffalo, 2013. http://mgt.buffalo.edu/career/students/networking/mentor/questions

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