If you plan on conducting an informational interview, it’s important to be prepared. This is an incredible opportunity to learn about an industry, career path, or company.
Don’t waste it!
This list of good informational interview questions will help you extract valuable information from experienced professionals while also making a good impression.
What is an Informational Interview?
An informational interview is an opportunity for you to learn about an industry, company, or role. It’s not the same thing as a job interview. There are no positions on the line, and you’re the one asking questions to a working professional.
Informational interviews are really just conversations that let you hear the stories of working professionals with jobs you’re interested in having one day.
It’s a great way to expand your knowledge, grow your professional network, and even gain more visibility for potential opportunities in the future.
The Best Informational Interview Questions
There’s a lot to learn during an informational interview, but you must ask the right questions first. If someone is taking time out of their busy schedule to meet with you, it’s only right that you come prepared. Having a list of thoughtful informational interview questions to ask will make the time productive for everyone and also help you make a good impression.
Here’s a comprehensive list of good questions to ask in an informational interview.
1. Can You Share a Bit About Your Professional Background?
The focus of an informational interview is not on you. It’s a nice change of pace from traditional job interviews, allowing you to flip the script and learn without all the pressure. There’s no better way to start a discussion about one’s career than to ask about their background.
Their response can teach you a lot about how this individual got into the industry. You might learn about specific skills or educational tracts they took to lead them to this point.
Even though you are asking this question, you should still research the person you’ll be meeting with. Look at their full LinkedIn profile, search for their name online and know about about what their career path has been.
2. Did Anything Surprise You About Working in Your Role or in This Industry?
Even if you’ve done thorough research about a new role, this is good question to ask. It’s impossible to know every detail, and surprises are bound to come up. Inquiring about what surprised your interview subject is a fantastic way to get insider information you might not hear anywhere else.
This informational interview question often unveils newfound information you never thought to ask. It’ll provide greater insight and help you get a different perspective on the position.
3. What’s a Normal Day Look Like for You?
It’s always a good idea to ask about the day-to-day life of someone working in positions that interest you. Jobs can look compelling on paper. But in reality, they can be completely different.
Some jobs look glamorous but require more monotonous daily routines. This is a good informational interview question because it gives you a better breakdown of the types of activities involved. It also provides a more personal view of what it’s like to be a working professional in a particular field. Learn about daily responsibilities and determine if they genuinely interest you or are what you expect.
4. What Types of Decisions are Most Important for Someone in Your Role?
Every job comes with the pressure of making tough decisions. For some professions, choices can make or break an individual’s or company’s success. Learning about those decision-making processes can shed light on what the role entails.
In answering this question, your interviewee can tell you more about what types of decisions their job entails. Discover how they find solutions to common problems, prioritize aspects of the job, and how much weight those decisions hold.
5. What Made You Want to Work in This Industry?
Learning about an interviewee’s origin story is an excellent way to see how your background compares. Again, this conversation isn’t about you. But, you can look at your own experiences, compare them to this professional’s career path, and gain more insight into the steps you should take.
Maybe this person had similar interests to you, and they took specific steps to unveil a unique career path you never thought possible. Whatever the case, you’ll learn about it with this informational interview question.
6. Have You Found it Difficult to Maintain a Healthy Work/Life Balance in This Industry?
If work/life balance is important to you, this is a good informational interview question, but it’s a little more personal than others on this list. Because of that, it’s a good idea to wait until you’ve developed a nice rapport with the interviewee before jumping into details like this.
Asking about work/life balance is crucial and everyone has different expectations. Almost every person has goals outside of their career. Learning about how your dream job fits into that equation can provide peace of mind and prepare you for whatever lies ahead.
7. Did You Ever Work as an Intern to Break Through into the Industry?
Many career paths involve internship roles. Interning is a great way to get your foot in the door and pave the way for future opportunities. However, that’s not always the case.
This question serves two purposes. First, it helps you understand your next career moves. If an internship is necessary, you’ll know to start your search.
Secondly, you can use it as an opening to ask about possible internship positions they might know about. Who knows? They could pass along your name and help you land a position.
8. How Useful Has Your College Education Been on Your Career Path?
Education is always important but doesn’t significantly impact every career path.
For some positions, it’s paramount. For example, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals need high-level degrees and years of education.
But for more creative jobs, it’s all about work experience. Education takes a back seat to talent and know-how.
Asking this question in an informational interview clarifies how important a degree is when pursuing your chosen career.
9. Are You Involved with Any Notable Projects You Can Tell Me About?
Here’s a chance for your interviewee to talk about what they love about their work! It gives them the opportunity to talk about projects they’re proud of the most. Plus, it gives you insight into some things you might work on in the future.
Asking this question lets you learn about projects run, what it’s like to deliver the finished product, and the impact you could have in this particular position.
10. Can You Tell Me What Part of Your Work is the Most Rewarding?
Jobs can have a bevy of rewards. Some are monetary, while others are more personal. Encourage your interviewer to talk about both.
This is a great time to learn about salaries and benefits. You can dig deeper to understand how compensation works and what the job demands.
On a more personal level, this informational interview question unveils how the job makes them feel. Maybe they experience immense pride in their output or feel good about their contributions. Either way, learning about the rewards is always a plus.
11. What is the Most Challenging Thing About Your Position?
With great rewards come significant challenges. This question is about lifting the veil and understanding the realities of a position. For many people, all they see is a job’s glamorous side.
This question invites the interviewee to address the roles’ challenges and gives insight into the not-so glamorous aspects of the job or company.
12.What Do You Like Most About Your Job?
Of course, you don’t have to focus on the more challenging aspects of a position. This question highlights what interviewees enjoy most about their job. Whether that’s something in their day-to-day life or a reward they can’t help but appreciate, this question allows them to discuss it.
It also lets you know more about the joys of the position and what you might expect if you go down a similar career path.
13. What Do You Like Least About Your Job?
Now, onto the more negative aspects. No job is perfect. It’s not wise to focus exclusively on the positives.
Doing so may give you a skewed view of working in this position or industry. Asking this informational interview question provides balance and helps you decide if this is the right path for you.
14. How Can Someone Prepare Themselves to Take on a Position Like Yours?
This is easily one of the best informational interview questions you can ask. It provides actionable insights and can help you form a plan to get to where you want to be.
Every job is different. Some career paths require years of education. Others need internships and a long climb up the corporate ladder. Whatever the case, preparing yourself for what lies ahead is important.
With this question, your interviewee can give you honest advice that you can put into action. Learn what it takes to get where they are and apply it to your plans.
15. Is There Anything You Wish You Knew Before Choosing This Career Path?
Most people have those “would have, should have” moments in their careers. While missteps and unexpected surprises don’t always impact the end goal, they can change how you get there.
Asking about what an individual wished they knew can set your expectations and prepare you for aspects of your journey you didn’t think about. Like other good questions to ask in an informational interview, it keeps you grounded in reality and prepares you for whatever comes next.
16. What Skills Do You Rely on the Most?
Here’s your chance to get even more actionable information. You’ll see a long list of skills when you look at job listings. But the position you want could require even more. Not only that, but there’s likely a set of core skills that are more pivotal to success in that role.
Asking about those details makes a big difference. It helps you figure out where you should focus your attention, equipping you with the knowledge you need to create a solid roadmap to get to where you want to be.
This question offers valuable information, so pay attention and apply what you learn to your journey.
17. Did You Ever Have a Mentor?
Having a mentor can be game-changing. Mentorships are an essential asset that can help you reach your full potential. However, they’re not always necessary in every career.
If they are paramount to the job you want, ask how to reach out to mentors. You can also inquire about how to make the most out of the relationship to future your career.
18. The Salaries in This Field Seem to be X-Y. Is That Correct?
Inquiring about salaries can be a bit awkward, and it’s best not to ask directly about what your interviewee makes. Most people like to keep that information private, and digging too deep into those details might not be well-received.
Instead, ask generally about salary ranges for the role. Most people are more than willing to give you some average salary information. They may even unveil opportunities to make more, what skills you can learn to provide you with the upper hand in salary negotiations, etc.
19. Do You Have Any Unconventional Skills or Experiences That Help You Today?
Here’s another good informational interview question to ask. It serves one important purpose: Helping you get ahead of the curve. Some positions evolve to require skills that might not appear on job listings.
Learning about them can help you prepare, paving the way to help you become a competitive candidate in the future.
20. If You Had to Start Your Career from Scratch, What Would You Do Differently?
Careers evolve, and positions change. What’s normal now may not be the norm later. Many professionals experienced that firsthand in the last few decades as digital technology became mainstream.
While interviewees can’t turn back the hands of time, they can pass on helpful advice during an informational interview. This question allows them to share potential regrets, ensuring you don’t make similar mistakes.
Whether that means future-proofing your skill set or learning specific soft skills to make your job easier, this advice makes a big difference.
21. What is the Company Culture Like?
Company culture affects your day-to-day. In some cases, it can make or break your success.
Ask about the company culture at the organization your interviewee works for. You can also ask about the culture in the industry as a whole.
Sometimes it’s difficult to define company culture so you may want to be more specific and ask about the leadership, values, recognition, employee engagement, or feeling of belonging.
Use what you learn to determine if the job is right for you, your lifestyle, and how you work.
22. What’s it Like Working at Your Company?
Every company operates differently. You can have the same job at two different organizations. However, the experience will be vastly different.
This question gives you a better idea of what it’s like working for a specific company you might be interested in applying for later.
Since this is a pretty open question, it gives the interviewee the chance to highlight what they think is most noteworthy (good or bad) about their company.
23. How Do You See the Next 5 to 10 Years Going for You Professionally?
This informational interview question focuses on career advancement. You might talk to someone with years of experience, but do they feel there is still room for growth or development.
Learning how your interviewee feels about their future can tell you a lot about what you can expect. It unveils information about job security, growth opportunities, and more.
24. Is There a Certain Personality Type That Tends to Dislike This Job or Industry?
Here’s a seemingly oddball question. However, it matters more than most realize.
Some jobs simply aren’t great fits for certain personality types. For example, a sales job isn’t the best for an introvert who hates speaking to strangers.
It’s a simple question that can help you understand how you fit into an industry.
25. Were You Ever Interested in Any Other Career Paths?
Career paths are not always straightforward. Some people discover their true calling through what seems like a random occurrence of events.
Ask about what your interviewee previously explored. Their answer could help you uncover new possibilities. It’ll help you explore new career avenues and see what’s out there.
26. Are There Any Certifications That Can Give Those in Your Position an Advantage?
Any kind of competitive edge you can get is worth knowing about. Some careers require specific licenses and certifications. In others, those certifications may be optional.
However, it’s worth pursuing them to get a leg up on other job-seekers. Ask this informational interview question to learn about the certifications you can get and how they might impact your prospects in the future.
27. What are the Hours Like?
A question like this is straightforward, but it’s one you can’t forget to ask. It’s about seeing if the work schedule works for your lifestyle and personal goals.
Some jobs have manageable hours. Others require you to work long hours or be on call 24/7. Know what you’re getting into before diving into the deep end!
28. Are There Any Industry Associations or Sources for Professional Development I Should Know About?
Like earlier with certifications, some industries have optional associations you can join. Ask about them! These associations can be a fantastic way to learn more about the industry, make new networking contacts, and more.
They also serve as a way to develop your career further. Explore membership options and see what published sources you can use to prepare for your dream job.
29. How do you stay current with what’s happening in your industry?
Similar to the question above, asking this informational interview question can expose you to useful resources.
Learning about which publications, podcasts or other resources are valuable saves you a lot of time and research. Asking this question of everyone you meet will provide you with a collection of resources to help you grow, learn and stay up-to-date on industry trends.
30. Is There Anyone Else in This Field That You Think I Should Speak to?
An informational interview is an excellent way to learn from someone actively working in a profession. It’s an invaluable source of information, and this single interviewer can shed tons of light on jobs that interest you.
However, it’s also good to get multiple perspectives. Ask about other people you can interview. The individual you’re speaking to now likely has more substantial contacts than you, and they might connect you with someone with even more valuable insight to offer.
31. Have I Missed Any Questions You Think I Should Ask?
This informational interview question is more of an open door for the interviewee. Hopefully, you’ve done your homework and asked all the necessary questions. But the person you’re meeting with might have some additional insight to offer.
This question opens that door and keeps the conversation going a bit longer. They might offer tips and other helpful information you didn’t think to ask about.
32. Do You Mind if We Stay in Touch?
Lastly, don’t forget to ask about staying in touch. This interview doesn’t have to be the last point of contact you have with this individual. You’re lucky enough to spend time with them and hear their story.
Use this meeting to build your network. Inquire about making connections on networking sites and social media. They might remember you for an opportunity in the future and help you connect with other people in the industry (which is why it’s always a good idea to take this conversation seriously).
As you can see, all of the best informational interview questions will provide you with valuable information that can be used to further your career. All you need to do is ask them!
Use this list as a reference and pick your favorites before you begin the conversation. You’ll be glad you did!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.