Informational Interviews: How to Start the Conversation
By: Jake Kelfer, @jakekelfer
What is the purpose of an informational interview? The goal of every informational interview is to get information. It can be information about a person, a job, a company, an industry or whatever you want it to be about. Along with getting information, it is your job to turn the information you receive into the foundation of a mutually benefiting relationship.
So let’s break it down. What questions should you be asking in your informational interview? These are in no particular order.
What has been your career journey up to this point?
– Easy way to get the informational interview rolling
– Might learn something that sparks another question
What is your favorite part of the job?
– Tells you something about the interviewee and what their preferences are
– Tells you about the company and what the interviewee thinks about it
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
– Ask if you want to learn more about the interviewee’s role
– Learn about the different job descriptions
What is the company culture like?
– Gives you insight as to whether or not you might want to work for the company
– How someone describes the company culture will tell you a lot about employee morale
What is your biggest challenge at XYZ company?
– See if the challenge is something you would be interested in solving
– You might learn something about the company and their style of task allocation amongst employees
What experiences, skills or personality traits does your company look for in new hires?
– Gives you insight into what you can do to prepare for applying
– It might lead to the interviewee asking if you are interested in working for the company which gives you an IN
What advice do you have for someone looking to break into this industry?
– Find out what it takes to make it
– Great to use their advice and mention it in your follow up
Remember, the goal of the informational interview is to get information. Not just any information but information that is going to help you get to know the interviewee and relevant to your life and job search.
Informational interviews are a stepping stone to building a relationship so ask questions that allow the interviewee to talk about themselves and their work (helpful for the follow up) while also asking questions that can’t be answered anywhere else.
These questions are just scratching the surface when it comes to what you can talk about during an informational interview. Your informational interview is about you building a relationship and getting the information you want to achieve your goals.
Always remember to be polite and respectful of the interviewee’s time because when you’re polite it creates more of an opportunity to develop your relationship and ask more questions at a later date.