I love informational interviews. I usually look at them as the Employee interviewing the Manager.
As you are going about your job search the number one thing that will help you get the job you want is to build a strong network of advocates. Informational interviews are a great way to start that. You meet people in companies that interest you and get a chance to present yourself as a potential employee. They may not have role immediately available, but you have made the first step by establishing yourself as a candidate before they even have a role. Alternatively, they may not have something now, but they may know someone who does and they may be able to make the connection for you.
Informational interviews give you insight into company culture, organizational structure, team culture, organization goals and projects, management philosophy, etc. It's an opportunity for you to understand if this team or company is a good fit for you. The questions you ask would generally be around those topics.
I recommend asking open ended questions. You want to have a conversation, not get a list of facts. Possible questions to Ask - you can definitely add others!
- Talk to me about the company culture. Give some examples of what you think really differentiates your company from other companies in the area?
- What are your operational goals this year?
- What does a typical day look like for your team?
- What other departments does your team work with?
- Can you describe how employees are measured?
- What do you look for when you hire new people ? (skill sets, experience, education)
- What are the busy times of year for you and why? (Finance may have an "all-hands-on-deck" requirement at the end of every quarter; Retail may require additional hours during the holiday season).
- How does your team fit into the overall organization?
- Tell me about what your organization does related to social programs (volunteering, sponsored organizations)?
- What does your team do for fun?
- How long have you been here? Why do you stay? What do you love about this company? What do you wish they would change?
- How often does the team work outside of normal working hours? What drives that need and decision?