Informational Interview: Interview Questions, Request Email, Definition [2020]

An informational interview is a session between you, the job seeker, and a professional who works at the business you’d like to be employed at. This interview is not a formal job interview and won’t have any merit on your ability to be hired within the business or receiving a job application. But it can be a helpful process to learn what the company values, what the company is working on, how to target your cover letter, resume, and other job application assets to the employer and more.

Informational interviews are a great way to earn an internal advocate when seeking a position at a company. By asking the right questions to the professional you’re speaking with and earning their trust that you have a strong passion for the business and career field, this professional can speak with the hiring manager or human resources department to find a position for you.

Core benefits of an informational interview

  • Learn what the employer is looking for.
  • Get career advice and opportunities from other professionals.
  • Build a network of contacts that can help you with your career.
  • Build a list of potential contacts that can help you with your career.
  • Challenge yourself to be more articulate with your career goal and goals.
  • Get general advice on how to more effectively apply for a position at the company.
  • Learn about a job opening before other candidates.
  • Learn more about the industry you’re in and build a professional network.
  • Get insight into the job market.

All of the information that this can provide is why an informational interview can be very impactful to you in your job search. Not only are you able to learn more about your industry and build a network of professionals who can help you with your career, but you can learn more about job opportunities within the organization ahead of time.

How to ask for an informational interview

Asking for an informational interview is easy. Find a professional within an organization or business that you admire. Or find a professional whose work that you admire. And then send a brief note describing who you are, what you’ve already achieved with your career, and how speaking with them can help you. Here’s an example:

Subject line: Love your work, have a minute?

Hey Mark—

I really loved your work with X. It inspired me throughout my career. I’ve been able to increase sales 32% at XYZ Company and am looking to get into a management role. I really love the ZYX company you’re part of. Can we sit down for lunch so I can learn more about the company and what advice you might give me about the industry?

Thank you Mark,
John

Many professionals meet these other professionals through social media. Tools like LinkedIn and Twitter provide ample ground to make connections and networking easier.

Best time and place to have an informational interview

The best time and place to have an informational interview is during the middle of the week and during lunch hours or after work hours. Remember that for the person you’re networking with, they are going to be taking time out of their workday to be helping you. Providing them a free lunch or some other type of compensation for their time can be a great way to exchange value. Any day between Tuesday and Friday would be best for an informational interview.

Goals as an interviewee

Because this is not a job interview, your goals as an interviewee will be slightly different. Leaving a good impression is going to be your objective. You want the professional to feel strongly about your career path and feel as though they would want to recommend you within the business simply because it will make them look great, as well. This mutually beneficial relationship is what will make a successful informational interview.

Remember that informational interviewing is not a job interview. This should be focused on the two professionals having an open conversation regarding what they’re working on, how they got to where they are in their career field, what advice they can exchange, what value they can exchange, and then take it from there.

Informational interview questions

Below are sample questions you can use to get an idea of what types of information you might be looking for from your informational interview conversation. You should come to the meeting with prepared questions.

  • What other related fields in the industry do you want to get into and why?
  • What would you consider to be the typical career path for a [job title]?
  • What do you feel the organization values and how can I speak to that in my cover letter or resume?
  • Do you think I should try to get an internship with the business first?
  • In your particular field, what jobs or roles did you have to complete before getting to where you are now?
  • What other professional organizations should I be looking at aside from this business?
  • What skill do you think the hiring manager is going to value the most?
  • Are there any good job boards for our industry that I should be looking at?
  • What kind of values does the company have when it comes to collaboration and working together?
  • How can I stand out as a potential candidate?
  • Would you be willing to vouch for me as a potential candidate with the HR department?
  • Is there a unique interview question that the company asks?
  • What question should I be prepared to answer when I interview with a hiring manager?
  • Are there any specific questions the company asks that are unique to the business or industry when it comes to them making a hiring decision?
  • What career exploration would you be taking if you had the chance?
  • Is there a similar job to ours that you would recommend me looking into?
  • How can I show the hiring manager that I’m a good fit for the role?
  • What is the company culture and corporate culture like?
  • Tell me about a good experience you’ve had with the company.
  • Tell me about a bad experience you’ve had with the company.
  • What advice would you give to a student or college student who is looking to get employed at XYZ Company?
  • What career advancement advice would you give me?
  • What advice would you give to someone who is trying to make a career change into this particular role?
  • What type of candidate would you describe the company is looking for?
  • Can you give me any feedback on my career journey and how I can better present it to the business?
  • Did you use a career counselor during your professional career?

These great questions should provide you ample framework for your own informational interview question cultivation. Good luck with your informational interview.

Related Hiring Resources

Best Thank You Email After an Informational Interview (+ Free Template) [2020]
author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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