Sample questions for informational interviews

A common challenge for students preparing for informational interviews is developing a set of good questions for the person they’re meeting with. With so many possible topics to cover during this conversation, where might you get started?

From my perspective, your first step in preparing a list of questions should be to determine your objective(s) for the informational interview. What are you hoping to learn from this meeting? Perhaps you’re interested in learning more about the career path of a young professional in a field of interest to you. Or maybe you’re looking to gain some insight into a company you’re interested in working for after graduation. The types of questions you ask during your informational interview should reflect what you’re most curious about and interested in learning.

After carefully considering your objective, brainstorm some questions that are likely to give you the information you’re looking for. Here are some sample questions to get you started:

About the person you’re interviewing:

  • Could you tell me about your career path and how you ended up where you are today?
  • What is your educational and professional background?
  • How did you get the job you’re currently in? How did you get previous jobs?
  • What are the most impactful educational and professional experiences you’ve had?
  • If you could change one thing about your professional and academic background, what would it be?
  • Based upon your experience, what advice would you offer to a person in my situation?
  • What is the most rewarding part of your job? What is the most challenging part?
  • What are some of the skills you use in your current role? How did you develop these skills?

About an organization or position of interest:

  • How is your organization structured?
  • What is the culture of your organization? Is it a collaborative environment, or do employees generally do independent work?
  • What are the most important internal and external issues affecting your organization?
  • What are some of your major organizational programs or initiatives?
  • What is the hiring process at your organization?
  • Does your organization offer opportunities for professional development? If so, what are some examples?
  • Are there opportunities for promotion in this role and/or in your organization?
  • What are the salary ranges and benefits for a given position?
  • How can an applicant stand out when applying for this job?
  • Could you describe a typical work day in this role?

About a field of interest:

  • What trends have you observed about your field? Is it growing or changing in any significant way?
  • Do you anticipate any major shifts in your field in the next 3-5 years?
  • Which organizations are considered the major players in your field?
  • What types of skills, experiences, and educational backgrounds are most valued in this field?
  • Are there any conferences, memberships, or professional organizations you’d recommend to a person trying to enter this field?
  • What are some of the best journals, blogs, or other publications to stay up-to-date in your field?

What are some questions you’ve asked in informational interviews? Have they helped you get the information you were looking for?