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Why ask questions for informational interviews?
It’s probably the single most important thing you can do for your career.
But not for the reasons you might think.
Asking information interview questions is daunting. Call someone up cold and ask about their job?
But it’s not hard when there’s a script to follow. Particularly a script that does exactly the right things.
This article will give you:
- 15 informational interview questions to create a job search breakthrough.
- The right questions to ask in an informational interview to create insider allies.
- How to ask for an informational interview without embarrassment.
- Information interview tips about email, preparation, and a whole lot more.
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What is an Informational Interview?
The definition of an informational interview? Talking with someone who already has the job you want.
What is the Goal of an Informational Interview?
There are only three reasons to conduct an information interview. You should be concerned with all of them:
- Creating advocates. The right information interview questions enlist insiders in your job search.
- Learn insider secrets. Career outsiders make basic resume and interview mistakes. The right questions for informational interviews can lever you into the job like a nuclear-powered crowbar.
- Broaden your network. It’s not what you know, it’s who, right? Well it’s both, but “knowing” doesn’t have to mean you’re one of the Kardashians. The best informational meeting questions grow your network in a fun and painless way.
Did you wind up in this information interview questions article by mistake? Looking for regular job interview questions and answers? See our guide: Common Job Interview Questions and Best Answers (20 Examples)
The Best Informational Interview Questions
Let’s not beat around the bush.
Here’s a list of great questions to ask in an informational interview. After, I’ll share a few tips to electrify your job search powers.
For now, here’s the list, in case your informational meeting is coming up in a few minutes:
Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview
Why did you choose this career?
How did you get into this job?
What current projects are you working on?
What's it like to work at your company?
What past work experiences help you most?
What's the greatest challenge your department faces?
What's the biggest challenge for your job?
How would you describe the perfect person for this job?
What's the most important preparation for a role like yours?
What do you wish someone would have told you before you started this career?
What's the biggest reward of your job?
What would surprise people about your daily work?
What's the biggest downside of your job?
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
How will this job change over the next 10 years?
Could you refer me to a couple other people who could give me tips about this job?
Those are great questions for informational interviews. But the real power lies in knowing why you’re asking them.
The truth? You want to create cheerleaders inside the organizations you want to work in. People pulling for you to get the job.
Another goal of exploratory interviews? Gaining special knowledge other applicants don’t have.
Read on for one-of-a-kind tips for how to do it right.
If you get a referral, you may wind up being interviewed yourself. See our guide for help: How to Answer the "What Are Your Strengths?” Interview Question (Examples)
Informational Interview Questions that Break the Ice
The #1 reason to conduct an informational call or email interview? Creating advocates.
Applying for jobs is tough. But imagine if your dad or brother already worked at the company.
That’s basically what the best information interview questions do for you.
People who like you are a lot more likely to help you get a job.
The easiest way to be more likable? According to leadership coach and Forbes author Kristi Hedges, it’s being interested.
Use the informational interview questions below to show interest.
The bonus? You’ll win insider advocates. You’ll also gain valuable tips to help you navigate into the job.
- Why did you choose this career?
- How did you get into this job?
- What current projects are you working on?
- What’s it like to work at your company?
Knowing what to ask in an information interview keeps you relaxed and focused. Questions like the ones above keep your subject interested.
Did your interviewee turn the tables on you? See our guide for help: Best Answers for the “Why Do You Want to Work Here?” Interview Question [+8 Examples]
Questions for Informational Interviews that Help You Fit the Job
There’s another vital rule with exploratory interview questions.
You must tailor your approach.
Submitting a generic, non-tailored resume that doesn’t fit the job offer? That’s one of the biggest resume mistakes there is. That’s according to a CareerBuilder survey of 2000 hiring managers.
So—ask questions for information interviews to learn exactly what the hiring manager is looking for.
Use these informational interviewing questions. They’ll help you prove you are the perfect person for the job:
- What past work experiences help you most?
- What's the greatest challenge your department faces?
- What's the biggest challenge for your job?
- How would you describe the perfect person for this job?
- What vital things should I do to prepare for a role like yours?
The goal of those career questions? To help you understand exactly what the company is looking for. Come up with your own questions targeting the same goal.
Pro Tip: Send an informational interview thank you email after you hang up. Mention one or two things you learned. That can boost your likability, along with your chance for getting offers.
Fitting your resume to the job is the #1 skill that turns applications into interviews. See our guide: 6 Tips on How to Tailor Your Resume to a Job Description (Examples)
Informational Interview Questions that Give You Secret Knowledge
Questions for exploratory interviews have another key goal:
To give info your competition doesn’t have.
These questions can be the most important. For example, maybe the job won’t even exist in five years thanks to automation.
They can reveal refinements that can get you hired faster. Such as, maybe one small project you worked on years ago makes you a shoe-in for the job.
Use these informational interview questions to get a leg up on other applicants:
- What do you wish someone would have told you before you started this career?
- What's the biggest reward of your job?
- What would surprise people about your daily work?
- What's the biggest downside of your job?
- If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
- How will this job change over the next 10 years?
Those are great questions to ask someone about their career. Be prepared for answers that may make you choose a different path.
Pro Tip: For informational interview email questions, first explain why you’re emailing. If you get a green light, send your list of questions. Keep them short and engaging so your contact person really dishes.
Bonus Informational Interview Question: Win More Advocates
There’s one more question you should ask in an informational meeting.
It multiplies your job search army like a bunch of rabbits.
“Who else should I talk to about this kind of career?”
Use this informational interview question to boost your hiring chances exponentially.
- Could you refer me to a couple other people who could give me tips about this job?
To make this question extra powerful, don’t just ask the generic version above.
Tailor it to fit your situation.
For example? Let’s say you’re going for a software engineering job.
You might ask, “Could you recommend a couple other people I could talk to about working as a software engineer?”
Keeping it specific makes it easier for the interviewee to say, “Yes.”
Pro Tip: What’s the worst thing to do in an information interview? Talk about yourself. According to Duke U. career expert Steve Dalton, “Interested is interesting.” Talking about your own goals, dreams, and struggle? That’s a turnoff to everyone but you.
Need more questions to ask during an informational interview? There are dozens in this guide: 65+ Best Questions to Ask an Interviewer & Land Top Jobs [Proven Tips]
Here’s a recap of the best informational interview questions and how to ask them:
- Ask information interview questions that build advocates. That means people inside the organization rooting for you. Be interested in their career and skills and don’t talk about yourself. Example, “Why did you choose this career?”
- Learn facts that help you tailor your resume to the job. Use questions for informational interviews like, “What’s the biggest challenge your department faces?” Knowing their needs makes you much more hirable.
- Gain secret knowledge with your informational meeting questions. Ask, “What would surprise people about your daily work?” Managers are more apt to hire savvy applicants.
- Broaden your network. “Who else would you recommend I talk to?” makes a great question for an exploratory interview. It lets you win more allies for your job search army.
Do you have questions on how to use the best information interview questions? Got a great question for information interviews that isn’t on our list?? Give us a shout in the comments! Let's get the conversation rolling.