9 Questions to Ask During an Informational Interview (and 1 to Avoid)

Arrive at your next informational interview prepared to gain valuable insights for your next career move.

It’s nearly impossible to discuss job-search tactics without mentioning the value of networking. Smart job seekers not only invest in developing their professional networks; they also tap into these connections for introductions, job leads and other valuable insights. However, one networking technique is often overlooked by even the savviest of job seekers: informational interviewing.

The concept of the informational interview (also known as an informational conversation) was first introduced by Richard N. Bolles, author of the popular job-search book, What Color is Your Parachute? Bolles believes that job seekers should speak with professionals in their field of interest to gather more information before choosing a particular career path.

I couldn’t agree more.

Whether you’re new to the workforce or you’re considering changing careers, informational interviews are a great way explore various career options and clarify your job goals. Furthermore, they can be an effective way to gather insight into a particular company when you’re preparing for an interview.

Below are nine questions you can ask during your next informational interview – and one to avoid – to make the most of this valuable opportunity.

Questions to ask:

  1. How did you end up in this industry? Did you always want to be a [position]?
  2. What do you enjoy most – and least – about working in this field (or at this organization)?
  3. Based on my research, it seems like most professionals start off as a [position] – is this consistent with what you’ve seen?
  4. What’s a typical day like for someone who holds this position at your organization?
  5. When you’re hiring someone for your team, what do you look for? What skills and experience do you consider most valuable?
  6. I’ve often been told that my core strengths as a professional are [______]. I enjoy working on projects that involve [______] skills. If that’s the case, what roles do you think I’d be best suited for in your field?
  7. Are there any specific networking groups or professional associations you recommend I join to learn more about this industry?
  8. I’m currently subscribed to the following publications to learn more about this industry:[______]. Are there any others you recommend I check out?
  9. Is there anything else you think I should be aware of before pursuing a career in [______] field?

And one question to avoid:

  1. Can you find me a job?

In the end

Remember, the goal of an informational conversation is not to secure a job lead. While this may occur naturally, it should not be your primary objective. Use this opportunity to pick your contact’s brain and learn their personal career story. As a result, you’re sure to receive great career advice and valuable insights into a new field.