University of Wisconsin–Madison

Get out of the hot seat: questions to ask in your informational interview

An informational interview (or meeting, since you’re not actually asking for a job) is kind of like a first date… with less pressure.

Your motivation may be to learn more about the person’s field of work, company, current job, or career path. So relax. Take a deep breath. And come prepared with some questions to help guide the conversation:

About the person and their current job

 

  • What is your educational background?
  • How did you get started in this field?
  • What was your career path like? How did you get your current job?
  • Does this career path require an advanced degree? If so, is a Masters of PhD a better choice?
  • What do you like most and least about your job?
  • What do you wish you would have known prior to entering this field?
  • What would you change about your job/career path if you could?
  • Where do you see yourself going from here?

Work activities

 

  • What do you do during a typical work day/week?
  • What are some of the problems and decisions you are likely to face in a day?
  • What do you spend most of your time doing?
  • How much paperwork do you have? Interaction with others?
  • Do you have frequent contact with people (customers, co-workers, supervisors, the general public, etc.) What is the nature of those interactions?

Lifestyle

 

  • How does your job affect your general lifestyle? What is your schedule generally like?
  • How many hours do you generally work in a given week?
  • What obligations, if any, does your work place upon you, outside of the ordinary work week?
  • How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, work hours, vacation, etc.?

Work setting / culture / climate

 

  • Do you determine what tasks you will work on and how to structure your time or is that determined for you?
  • How would you characterize your working relations or work environment (formal, informal, etc.)?
  • Do you work primarily alone or in collaboration with others?
  • How are decisions made?
  • What is the company’s management philosophy?

About the career field / industry

 

  • What are the employment trends and how rapidly is your present career field growing?
  • What specific jobs are in demand and which are being cut back?
  • Is relocation to another state or company necessary? What is the turnover rate like?
  • What is the salary range for the various levels in this field?
  • What type of professional development or training opportunities are there?

Preparation / qualifications

 

  • What credentials, educational degrees, licenses, etc. are required for entry into this field?
  • What kind of prior work experiences would be good background for the position?
  • How do college majors fit in?
  • What specific skills are required? What are some additional skills that will be helpful?
  • What qualities and qualifications do you look for in an ideal candidate?
  • What is the profile of someone who is successful in this field?
  • How are hiring decisions made?
  • How did the last few people you hired obtain the position? What were their backgrounds?
  • How do people find out about these jobs? Are they advertised? If so, where? How else does one hear about openings?

Advice

 

  • Is this a realistic goal? Am I in the ballpark?
  • How does someone with my background and skills fit the needs of an organization in this industry?
  • Do I have to develop some skills or gain some experiences to make myself more competitive?
  • What professional associations or organizations do you think might be useful to contact for information or to join?

Next steps

 

  • What’s next and where do I go from here?
  • How do people break into the field? What’s my next big step?
  • What advice do you have for me as I try to break into this field?
  • What entry-level jobs are best for learning as much as possible?
  • Are there other people you think I would benefit from talking to?
  • Can I use your name when I contact them?
  • Could I stay in contact with you if I have other questions?