For those who may not know, an informational interview is one that is initiated by the job seeker to learn more about a specific company, its culture, and its employees. It can be a great tool for any job seeker as it allows you to get your foot in the door with your desired company. Scheduling an informational interview can show initiative to help you make a great impression all before you’ve even formally applied. To help you nail an informational interview, we’ve compiled a list of 5 questions you can ask to ensure this call goes well.
How to secure an informational interview
Before you can prepare your questions, you have to land the informational interview first. While these types of calls are extremely beneficial for job seekers, it requires someone from the company to be willing to take the time to speak with you. So, that’s going to require a bit of hard work on your end, but don’t get discouraged. If you take the proper steps, you can land the interview and make the work worth your while.
First, you’re going to want to do a bit of research. Look into the companies you are most interested in and the positions you’d like to have. Try arranging all of this information into an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet to help keep organized. The more information you have, the better prepared you will be. If interested in multiple industries, try creating different sheets for each one. The last thing you want to do is be on the call and ask the wrong questions. Stay organized and stay focused.
If you can find contacts that you may have something in common with, such as your alma mater, you will be more likely to schedule a call with them. A great networking resource for situations like this is LinkedIn. You can easily find people with connections to you through alumni pages or company pages. Many users also include their email in their contact information on their account. Emailing them may make the contact more personal and you won’t seem like you’re spamming them through LinkedIn. For more on building relationships online, check out this article.
Once you’ve made the connection, it’s time to get to asking them for the interview. According to The Muse, these five steps are most effective in making that connection:
- Ask for help
- Be clear
- Have a hook
- Be considerate
- Don’t appear as if you’re looking for a job
If you follow this format and be sure to follow up with a thank you, you are more likely to land that informational interview. Now that you’ve gotten that “yes,” it’s time to plan those questions.
1. How did you get your start in this field and with this company?
This is a great question to begin with. For starters, it gets your interviewee talking about themselves, which is always a good way to start. It also gives you more insight to what beginning steps you can take for yourself to be in your interviewees shoe’s one day.
However, keep in mind as you’re asking questions that you don’t want to be drilling your interviewee with question after question about themselves. That makes the conversation too one sided and it doesn’t give them a better idea of who you are. It’s important to find a healthy balance of speaking and listening in order to make the most of your informational interview while also keeping in mind any time constraints.
2. What’s it like working for your company and what made you choose this company to work with?
This question allows you to get more of a sense for the company culture without directly saying it. This same rule goes for all types of interviews: they are interviewing you to see if you are a good fit for them just as much as you are interviewing them to see if it’s a good fit for you. Interviews work on a two-way street. Having an insider perspective is the perfect way to get a feel for the company, how it treats its employees, and the atmosphere of the office. Additionally, understanding why someone would choose their company over another can help you narrow down your own job search.
3. How did you adapt to your current work environment when first beginning?
Beginning a new job can be nerve-wracking. And oftentimes when we are first getting started, we are bound to make mistakes. It’s normal; however, we can attempt to learn from the mistakes of others to avoid repeating them. This type of insight can be crucial for what you hope to gain from this interview, which is an opportunity to eventually work for this company in that department. Whether you’re learning more about the workload, the temperature of the office staff, or simply where the best place to print your copies is, the response to this question can help you once you get to the next steps.
4. What does your company typically look for in new hires?
One of the best methods for landing a job is ensuring your capabilities and experience align with what the company is looking for. Who better to provide you with that information than someone who actually works for that company? Once you’ve been given this helpful insight, be sure to use it when developing your resume, your cover letter, and when preparing for the interview. It could make a big difference in how far your resume gets passed through.
5. What advice do you have for someone looking to get into this field?
This question is a great one to end on. And whether you end up pursuing this specific company or not, you’ll have a good idea of how to enter the industry itself. Knowledge can be great and easily acquired with a few Google searches, but hearing from someone with personal experience can be even better.
Whether you’re meeting over the phone or over a cup of coffee, informational interviews have many benefits. If you’re serious about your career, be sure to use these tips to your advantage. And when you do finally get that official interview, check out these tips as well. Have any other great questions to ask during an informational interview? Leave a comment below and tell us your best tips!