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What are some good questions to ask in an informational interview for a career?

How is an informational interview different than a job interview and what must one do to prepare for an interview?

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Subject: Career question for you

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Katie’s Answer

An informational interview is a less formal discussion about the role, team and company to understand for yourself if it’s a close fit to your skill set and interests as well as for the recruiter or hiring manager to assess the same of you. You can expect the recruiter or hiring manager to spend the first chunk of time telling you more about the role, position or team. Then they may ask some very high level questions about your experience. Typically there are not technical or deep behavioral questions in an informational.

You can ask questions like:
1. Can you tell me more about the team I will be working on? What roles are on the team, who do I work regularly with (what roles or team names) and what are the teams key goals?
2. Can you tell me more about the hours, schedule, flexibility, remote/on-site/hybrid work model?
3. How quickly are you looking to fill the position?
4. Is this a permanent role or temporary/contractor role?
5. What are the most critical skill sets/strengths of someone successful in this tole?
Thank you comment icon Thank you for giving me advice. Anthony
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Joanna’s Answer

This is a great opportunity to ask your questions in a more informal setting. An informational interview is not explicitly tied to the true HR-driven interview process. However, it's important to keep it professional and use it to your advantage because connections can often lead to a true job interview (if you're interested in pursuing it). To prepare, you can treat it as a real interview, but you'll most likely be asking more questions vs. being asked the questions. Be sure to come prepared with all of the questions you're truly curious to learn. It could be an opportunity to learn more about the individual and how his/her own career path led him/her at this role/company vs. solely a specific role at the company. That could be helpful if you're interested in additional career advice beyond learning only about the employer.

Some questions can include:
- Why do you like working at this company? What excites you in your current role?
- What led you to this current role? Can you tell me more about your career path?
- Can you tell me about the dynamics of your team/company? Is it collaborative, are people encouraged to share ideas, ask questions?
- Are there professional development opportunities at this company? Do you see yourself growing here and does the leadership encourage growth?
- What are the qualities you're looking for in a candidate to add value to this team? (If interested in a specific area)
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John’s Answer

Your questions can be anything you would like to know about the career. One question I always like to ask my interviewer is what their normal day looks like.
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Darlene’s Answer

Hi there! Here's a few questions to consider answering:

What do you like most about your career?
What does a typical day look like for you?
What was your major in college and how did it lead you to your current career path?
What do you like least about your career?
Where do you see your career in the next 5, 10, 15 years?
What's the growth path in your career?

Good luck to you!
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Sikawayi’s Answer

In an informal interview, you should craft your questions around the information you are looking to obtain. For example, if you are interested in learning more about the role, I would recommend asking what skills are needed to be successful in the role. Additionally, are there any certifications you can obtain to prepare you for the role? Informal interviews are a great way to determine how prepared you are for that job. It will also save you time and money from investing in a career that does not meet your financial and mental goals.
Thank you comment icon Your advice was so helpful! Anthony
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Robert’s Answer

Some good questions to ask would be what is a day look like in this position? What type of training is offered to a new joiner? What types of career path is available in this position?

In terms of preparing for the interview I would say make sure you can talk through you resume to describe you past experiences and roles. Also, taking a detail look at the job description and be able to articulate the skill set you have that closely matches what employer is looking for you. Lastly, have so good questions to ask since you are also interview the company to see if this is a place or position you want.
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Christopher’s Answer

Hi Anthony,

Definitely wish I did more of these. These are great ways to learn about a company to make sure you are a right fit or they are a right fit for you.

I love questions involving career progression - depending on what you are trying to get into.

Whats a typical day like?

What is the culture like?

What is the coaching like?

These are some great ones
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Jennifer "JJ"’s Answer

What is the culture like? Can you tell me more about the team? What are you looking for in the role? These are some good ones. Avoid "what concerns about me do you have for this role?" that sends a message that you aren't confident about your ability to kill it!
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Paola’s Answer

Informal interviews are a great way to learn more about the position, be able to ask questions, and network with individuals in the career area of interest. Don't forget to connect via LinkedIn and get connected with others in the same field. This is an opportunity to get a realistic job preview of what the role is and learn if its truly the career field for you. As the previous collaborators posted, come prepared with questions and have a general knowledge of the company you are interviewing.
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Emily’s Answer

Great question!
An informational interview is the opportunity for you to learn more about the role, not just for the company to learn more about you. Obviously be prepared to be able to talk about yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, why you are interested in this role. Also be prepared to listen! I always reccomend having a notebook and a pen handy, be able to take notes, typing them up can be distracting. As someone who has interviewed frequently, I also always recommend having a few questions prepared for the interviewer, it can anything from personal like : "what do you love about this company" or more role oriented like "what else can someone do to be successful in this role"
I would avoid questions like "can i have feedback about how i did?" or "how can I make myself more attractive for this role" this is not something that many interviewers will feel comfortable answering, especially since you are making your first, and often times only impression now and questions like this undermines your confidence.
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Talha’s Answer

There are a lot of good answers here already about what specific questions to ask. In general - I think you should focus on if you would like working in that role at that company. So try to understand in detail what the day to day responsibilities would look like. It is also important to learn more about the work environment and if the atmosphere there aligns with the things you value - e.g. how much flexibility there is in terms of work hours, does the company care about any causes you're passionate about, how much do they invest in your career development (or any other things that are important to you)
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Langston’s Answer

Great question. I feel like this isn't asked often enough. We sometimes feel like interviews are interrogations but in reality it is an opportunity to determine if that employer is right for you, just as much as if you are right for them. I have listed some general questions I've asked, in interviews, below:

1. How long have you (interviewer) worked for the organization?
2. Do team members typically hang out after work hours?
3. Do you find that you enjoy the people you work with?
4. Does the organization typically higher from within for higher level positions?

I'm sure I've missed a couple but I hope his helps.
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Stephanie’s Answer

Hi Anthony,

I now am a professor at a university and teach a course that includes an informational interview! I believe this is a great way to meet people and learn more about your future career.

Questions - I love the questions that Katie suggested. First, let's be clear about an Informational Interview: An informational interview is an informal conversation you can have with someone working in an area of interest to you. It's NOT a job interview. It's an opportunity to learn more about the career you'd like to have in the future.

Here are some questions to consider:

What sparked your interest in this career field? 

What does a typical day entail in your line of work? 

What do you like most about your career field? 

What are some challenges you face in this career choice? 

How do you handle your work-life balance? 

What suggestions do you have for someone who is interested in this field? 

Who else do you recommend I talk to? 

Here's a video you can watch: https://www.candidcareer.com/video-informational+interviewing,bddaa88aa1b24bace450,UMGC

Good luck!

Stephanie
Thank you comment icon I'm excited to put your great advice to good use! Anthony
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Robert’s Answer

An informational interview is a great time to further understand the company and work environment that the company provides. Any specific details that you are curious about with the company can be asked about in an informational interview. Some of these questions can be:

- How long have you been at the company? If it has been a long time, what has made you stay?
- What does your work/life balance look like here?
- What are some of the main skills I would need to succeed in this role, and the company as a whole?
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Donna’s Answer

An informational interview is a great way for you and your potential employer to gauge each other. Make sure you come prepared with plenty of questions (you have received alot of good suggestions in this thread) including if the position is new or a replacement. If it's a replacement, ask what happened to the prior person in the position. Always ask about company culture. You're going to want to make sure that this position is a good fit for you and aligns with your principles. Good luck!
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Diana’s Answer

Hi Anthony,

Here are some questions to consider:

1. What is your favorite part about your job?
2. What does you day-to-day look like?
3. I read about [X] recently, what are your thoughts on that?
4. What are the signs you look for when identifying the best culture fit for you?
5. What is the most challenging part of this career path?
6. What are some trends you're noticing in the industry you're in?
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