The Only 10 Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)
One of the best ways to learn about a field (and to get advice on how you can break into it) is by conducting informational interviews with people who already work in your target industry. This is not a new strategy. However, when I look at college/university career center web sites or other resources offered by career experts, many of them provide lists of 25-50 questions (or more!) to ask in an informational interview. One online resource even provided a list of 200 questions!
While thorough, that is completely unrealistic. An informational interview will probably only last 15-20 minutes, so there is no way you will be able to ask more than 5-10 questions. Here are the 10 best questions you can ask:
- How did you get started in this field, and what do you think has made you successful throughout your career? (This gets the other person talking about himself/herself and can provide you insights about how you can get started and achieve success of your own.)
- What are some ways that other people you know have gotten started in this field? (This will help you learn how most people get their start in the industry.)
- What are the pros and cons of working in this field? (This cuts right to the chase about the good, the bad, and the ugly about an industry.)
- What traits, skills, or experiences do employers in your field look for in candidates? (This will help you understand how you can enhance your candidacy and how you should position yourself to employers.)
- If you were me, what would you do to try to break into this field now? (This will get the other person to tell you what you should be doing to find a job in the field at this time.)
- What publications, professional associations, or events should I check out for additional information on this field? (This will direct you to other valuable resources about breaking into a field.)
- Do you know anyone else I can speak to for advice about breaking into this field? (This builds your network even further and may lead to additional insights.)
- Can you take a quick glance at my resume and give me your feedback? (This is a subtle way of reminding the other person that you want to find a job in the field, and this may also give you some ideas on how to improve your resume.)
- If I have additional questions in the future, can I reach out to you again? (This keeps the door open for future advice.)
- Is there anything I can do to help you? (Always look for ways to return the favor when someone helps you by offering their time and advice.)
In summary, these 10 questions will give you insights on how people get started in a certain field, what the pros and cons are for working in the industry, what employers in the field look for, how you can connect with other people in the field, and what you can do to get your foot in the door. Good luck!
-Career Expert and Professional Speaker
-President of Idealize Enterprises
P.S. I speak about career success to students and young professionals nationwide. To learn more about my programs and speaking availability, please send an email to Pete@IdealizeNow.com.