So, you’ve reached out and successfully scheduled a meeting with that key person who is working at your ideal job. Now what?
It’s important to spend time before the meeting to prepare questions you’d like to ask to ensure that you take full advantage of this opportunity. Below is a list of personal, industry, and company related questions you can consider asking.
Questions to Ask During an Informational Interview
- I am interested in your background. How did you get where you are today?
- What are your key functions and responsibilities?
- I understand you’re working on ______. Tell me more about that project (or others you’re working on now).
- What do you enjoy most about your job?
- What are the main challenges of your role? What has been the most difficult thing to learn in this position?
- Describe a typical day’s work. How much time do you spend on analysis, client contact, managing others, making presentations, meetings, etc.?
- What are critical qualities or characteristics for success in this role/business unit? What types of people tend to do well here?
- What led to your decision to take this job? Compare and contrast your views of the industry and others you considered. Was there a framework or set of perspectives that helped you make your decision?
- Did you change careers? How did you make the transition?
- What were the perceived weaknesses in your background and how did you address or overcome these?
- What are the common interview questions and topics students should be prepared to discuss for interviews in this function/industry?
- What was the best part of your educational experience? What classes helped you the most in the early stages of your career?
- What resources proved most useful in your career search process?
- If you had to redo your job search, what would you do differently?
- What advice would you give someone like myself?
- What are the things you wish you had known when you were starting out in this field?
- What are some important long-term trends affecting this industry (sector)?
- How do you see these trends affecting marketing strategy (or other functional areas of the business)?
- What are the critical issues facing your industry today?
- What are some important sources of information I could use to keep up-to-date on this important issue?
- What are the rewards of working in this function/ industry?
- What information do you wish you had known before entering into this function/industry?
- What are the challenges, demands, and other things I should know about being in this function/industry?
- What are the career stages and paths, beginning with an entry-level job, for the function/industry?
- How can you break into this function/industry without prior experience? Can you give examples of people who have done this and what they did?
- What are the best sources of information for this function/industry?
- What professional development processes or professional association involvement are helpful as one grows in this function/industry?
- How do you stay current about trends in your business/industry? Any advice on reading material or ways I can research this area?
- What’s your particular advice for someone interested in this field?
- For those who would want to work in your organization, what do you think is important for them to know?
- How do you interact with colleagues from different functions?
- How would you describe the culture of your company?
- How would you describe the atmosphere in this business unit/area?
- How is your team/business unit organized?
- Who do you interact with the most in this role? Who do you go to for advice?
- How much autonomy and flexibility do you have in your role?
- How is your performance evaluated? How do you evaluate the performance of others in your group?
- What are the expectations of someone first joining this business in your role? What does the career path look like beyond that?
- How did you choose this company? Why did you choose it over competitors?
While it’s important to have questions prepared for the meeting, remember that it is a conversation; you may not get to all of your questions. The most important thing it to build rapport and gain insight into their professional journey.
Be sure to send at least one formal and substantive thank you message after meeting a new contact. Either a hand-written thank you card or formal business email is appropriate. Your message should include something specific you learned during the meeting, rather than a generic note. If you have agreed to forward your résumé to the contact, now would be the time to do this.
While it may not be possible to reengage with all contacts regularly, it is important to keep genuine and relevant contacts “warm.” This means reaching out to them on a regular basis – every 3- to 6-months – with an update, question, or resource.
Reasons to follow up with a contact:
- You followed their advice
- Sending an article of interest
- Update to your résumé, experience, or situation
- You read or heard something about them or their company
- It has been a while and you just want to touch base
- Be of use to them by offering something (time to volunteer on a project, research using your access to university databases, student perspective on a product or idea, etc.)