Informational interview questions (with examples and tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 October 2022

Published 14 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're considering a job in a new field or with a new company, informational interviews can be an excellent way to learn more about the organisation, industry or profession before taking the job. Informational interviews are informal conversations with individuals related to a company or industry and they're an excellent fact-finding resource. An informational interview gives you first-hand accounts of what working in an industry or company is like. In this article, we outline some important informational interview questions to ask and provide tips to help you get the most out of your questions.

Examples of informational interview questions

Informational interviews are more informal because you aren't interviewing for a job. Instead, you're on a fact-finding mission with an informational interview, looking for insights into a company, profession or industry. You can tailor your questions to suit your needs, so make sure that your questions apply to what you want to find out. Below are several useful questions that you might want to ask during an informational interview:

1. What brought you to this industry/company?

Asking about why the interviewee chose their industry or profession is a good opening question because it gives them an opportunity to speak candidly about their motivations. It can also give you insights into the reality of working in an industry or company compared to what you imagine it's like. They may even highlight specific reasons for entering the industry that you hadn't considered.

2. How did you work towards your current position?

Learning about how someone got to where they're in a professional context can act as a template for your future career moves. You can learn from their mistakes and successes so that you can better position yourself for career advancement. The interviewee may also offer advice that could streamline your career progression.

3. How might someone prepare for a role like yours?

This is a targeted question that asks for specific actions and real-world solutions. This can help you better understand what to do to secure your success in getting the new job. Interviewees may offer specific advice to help you prepare for the job, such as courses to undertake.

4. What achievements stand out most in your career?

Although you might already know this answer if you have researched the person you're interviewing, having them answer may offer a more in-depth response. This can also give you ideas on how to stand out from the competition. It gives the interviewee an opportunity to discuss memorable achievements in their past.

5. Did you have skills or experience in another industry that helped you in this role?

Not only does this question give you a good amount of information about the interviewees' work experience, but it also gives you insights into what skills are easily transferable to the new role. If you have experience in a similar industry, you can find out how useful this might be. It might also give you an idea of skills that you can work on before applying for the role.

Related: 10 important professional skills to develop (including tips)

6. Have you developed any new skills while working in this role?

This is a good question because it's a backwards way of asking about what skills are important in this role or company. If you have these skills already, you can highlight them when applying for the role. Alternatively, you can work on the skills discussed in the run-up to the interview.

7. Did you earn an undergraduate degree for this job?

This can help you understand what qualifications are beneficial for securing a job in this industry or company. Sometimes specific degrees are essential, other times they're just preferable. This gives you the information needed to either undertake higher education or move forward without it.

8. Was it required that you complete certifications for the job or would they help your career?

Although you may already know this answer, it's helpful to see how useful professional certifications are in this role. Many courses run for weeks, so it can often be an easy way to improve your chances of securing a role. It might be what separates you from the competition or it may be irrelevant, so it's an important question to ask.

9. Did you start here as an intern? What is the company policy on internships?

This is a good question to ask about internship opportunities at a specific company. If you have experience interning, you can use this to build rapport and add context to the question. It might also give you an idea of if an internship is a good opportunity for you.

Related: 13 key internship benefits (including useful skills)

10. What is it like working for this company?

Regardless of their position at the company, the interviewee can give their perspective of what working there is like. This can help give you an idea of company culture, the work-life balance there and any issues you may not have considered, such as unpaid overtime. If it sounds like a good fit for your lifestyle, then you can move forward in securing a job there.

11. What challenges do you face in your job?

Learning about the difficulties that the interviewee faces at work gives you an insider's perspective of what the work is like. You can gain a better understanding of what difficulties the role presents or what skills you require to solve these problems successfully. It gives you an idea of what to expect in your working life if you transition to this role.

12. What is the company culture like?

Asking about what the company culture is like gives you a lot of insight into the priorities of the role or organisation. For example, investment bankers work excessively long shifts during peak periods. If that isn't the company culture for you, it's good to know in advance.

Related: Organisational culture importance: benefits and examples

13. What do you like most about your job?

This question is a good way to keep the conversation upbeat and gives you a better understanding of the best parts of the job or industry. If the interviewee discusses things you're looking for, it's a good sign that the role could be for you. In contrast, if the interviewee enjoys aspects of the job that don't appeal to you, you know it might not suit you.

Related: 'What do you like most about your job?' Tips and answers

14. What do you like least about your job?

This is another opportunity for you to learn about the challenges faced in this type of work. You might feel well-equipped to handle the least enjoyable aspects of the role or it may put you off entirely. Again, it's definitely good to know this before taking the job.

15. What important projects are you currently involved in?

Asking about important projects gives you insight into some of the most interesting parts of the job. If you feel excited by their answer, then you can be confident that the job would interest you. It might also let you know how much work daily operations at the company involves.

What is the objective of an informational interview?

Informational interviews can help you learn more about a specific company, role or industry that you're considering a career in. There are three main objectives for informational interviews, which are:

  • Building relationships: If you can ask the right questions during an informational interview, the person you're interviewing can become an insider for you. This can help you find out about upcoming jobs and keep you informed about changes in a company or industry.

  • Insider information: Speaking with someone from within a company or industry offers you a great deal of insider information that can be very useful moving forward. Asking the right questions can help you avoid mistakes during interviews and point you towards the right things to do or say to secure a job.

  • Extending your network: Informational interviews are great at building rapport because they're informal. This helps you broaden your existing network of professionals, which can make it easier to find a new job or have someone refer you to a new position.

Related: What to bring to an interview: 11 important tips and tricks

Tips to help you prepare for an informational interview

Although an informational interview is informal, it's important to prepare in advance. To help you secure the best possible informational interview, use these tips:

Treat the interviewee's time with respect

Remember that the interviewee is doing you a favour by answering these questions, so try to be as accommodating as possible and don't waste their time. A 30-minute conversation is a standard for these types of interviews, but they can easily occur via email too. Ideally, find a format that is easy for the interviewee to work with.

Use active listening and ask follow-up questions

Make sure that you're always engaged with your interviewee and give them room to speak freely. Try to build rapport quickly so that the interviewee is comfortable and ready to answer questions. Use active listening techniques to show you're attentive and don't be afraid to insert follow-up questions once they have finished speaking.

Take notes

You can choose to record the entire interview if you would like to, but for speed, it is always a good idea to take notes down during the interview. This helps you retain information better and gives you a physical reference point to use during and after the interview. Just try not to focus on note-taking at the expense of listening to your interviewee.

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

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