14 Questions to Ask During Your Informational Interview

First of all…what is an informational interview and why is it important?

If you’re not sure, you’re not alone.

With today’s advancement of technology, the steps involved in the job search process are constantly changing. The introduction of cutting-edge technological tools within the recruitment industry isn’t slowing down anytime soon. It can be overwhelming to even know where to start.

So…back to this thing called an informational interview. As you probably know (or as you will soon hear enough to make your ears bleed), networking is everything nowadays.

According to Career Contesta’s recent article about finding a job in 2020, “Studies have shown that 70-85 percent of jobs are filled through some means of networking.”

To those who find networking uncomfortable, that number can seem…intimidating. However, there are ways to take baby steps and still make strong connections. I’m an introvert who loves my alone time, so you can trust me.

An informational interview is a one-on-one discussion with a subject matter expert, or simply anyone, who works, in the role or industry into which you’re looking to transition. But don’t let the word “interview” within the phrase scare you. This discussion is very- laid back. You are simply having a 30 minute conversation either in-person over coffee, via video call, or over the phone. You can bring your questions prepared in advance. You can take notes in a notebook or on your computer. You’re simply chatting with people in the industry to “pick their brain” and understand more.

Not only is this conversation important to make a connection and potential referral into a company in the future, but you are also able to understand what it means to be that particular interviewee’s title at the company at which he or she works. See, there’s that “interview” word again.

For example, someone can be a Marketing Analyst at a tech startup, but his or her day-to-day tasks and skill set can be completely different than another Marketing Analyst at a large company. You’ll notice two roles can have identical job titles but also drastically contrasting day-to-day job requirements. This will be helpful in understanding exactly what it means to be a certain title at a specific company.

I’ve compiled a list of questions you can ask to start dissecting roles at different companies:

  1. What do you do in your current role? (If this person has had the same title at multiple companies, ask how the experiences at the various companies differ, and dissect which position they liked the most and least as well as understand what made that difference. This can be key in understanding how an “Operations Associate” title can have very different day-to-day requirements at separate companies. You may find that you prefer one company’s take on the role over another).
  2. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your current role?
  3. How would you describe the recent history of (your particular industry) over the past 5 years? (i.e. How would you describe the history of the Data Science industry over the past 5 years?)
  4. What trends have come into play within the industry over the past year?
  5. What trends do you see taking over the (particular) industry within the next few years? (i.e. What trends do you see taking over the AdTech industry within the next few years?)
  6. What are the top buzzwords you keep hearing about that I should start learning?
  7. What do you (or your team/company) look for when hiring (title of role)? (i.e. What do you as the hiring manager look for when hiring a Software Engineer for your team?)
  8. What is the typical hiring process at your company?
  9. What tools does your team use?
  10. What projects do your team work on, and what is your particular role in the project flow?
  11. What are red flags you notice or look for when interviewing (title of role)? (i.e. What are red flags you notice when interviewing Tech Sales Associates?)
  12. What’s the hardest question you ask in an interview, and what’s the answer you’re looking for?
  13. What networking events in the area do you recommend I go to?
  14. Do you know of anyone else in your network with whom I should connect?

So, I guess you’re now wondering where to find subject matter experts to have these conversations with? That’s a topic for LinkedIn strategy and networking. Stay tuned.

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