Career Advice

The Most Effective Informational Interview Questions

An informational interview is a valuable opportunity to gather insights and knowledge about a specific industry, career path, or organization directly from professionals who have first-hand experience. Unlike a job interview, the primary goal of an informational interview is to learn and build connections rather than seek employment. By conducting informational interviews, individuals can gain valuable insights into the industry’s inner workings, understand career paths and opportunities, and seek advice from experienced professionals. These interviews offer a unique chance to expand knowledge, make informed decisions, and establish meaningful connections within the desired field.

In this post, we’ll outline why it’s crucial to plan the questions you’ll ask in an informational interview, offer a list of suitable informational interview questions, and offer some advice on how to carry out a productive interview.

What are Informational Interviews?

Informational interviews are structured conversations or meetings in which an individual seeks to gather information and insights about a specific career, industry, company, or job role from someone with relevant experience or expertise. These interviews are not job interviews, but rather opportunities for networking, learning, and gaining valuable insights into a particular field.

Here’s how informational interviews typically work:

  1. Purpose: The primary purpose of an informational interview is to learn. You’re seeking information, advice, and guidance, not job offers. These interviews can help you explore potential career paths, industries, or companies, and make informed decisions about your career.
  2. Participants: There are two primary participants in an informational interview:
    • The Interviewee (You): You initiate the conversation and are typically the one seeking information.
    • The Interviewer: The person you’re interviewing is often someone with expertise or experience in the area you’re interested in.
  3. Initiating the Interview: You can reach out to potential interviewees through professional networking platforms like LinkedIn or by contacting them directly if you have their contact information. You should briefly explain your purpose and request a meeting or conversation.
  4. Preparation: Before the interview, research the interviewee’s background, the industry, or company. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask, focusing on topics like their career journey, insights into the industry, advice for newcomers, and trends in the field.
  5. During the Interview: The interview typically takes the form of a conversation. You should actively listen to the interviewee’s responses, ask follow-up questions, and take notes. Be respectful of their time, keeping the conversation within the agreed-upon timeframe.
  6. Questions to Ask: Sample questions for informational interviews include:
    • Can you tell me about your career path and how you got started in this industry?
    • What do you find most rewarding/challenging about your work?
    • Can you share insights on current trends or future developments in the industry?
    • What advice do you have for someone looking to enter this field?
    • Are there specific skills or qualifications that are highly valued in this industry?
  7. Follow-Up: After the interview, send a thank-you note expressing your appreciation for their time and insights. If appropriate, you can also connect with them on LinkedIn to maintain the connection.
  8. Building Relationships: Informational interviews are a way to expand your professional network. Building relationships with people in your chosen field can open up opportunities for mentorship, referrals, and even job leads in the future.

Informational interviews are a valuable tool for career exploration and networking. They allow you to learn from experienced professionals, gain industry-specific knowledge, and make connections that can be beneficial throughout your career journey. Remember to approach these interviews with genuine curiosity and respect for the interviewee’s time and expertise.

20 informational interview questions

Make sure to adjust your list as it feels right. The questions you pose in an informational interview must be pertinent to the interviewee’s field of expertise. In your next informational interview, you might want to ask the professionals the following informational interview questions:

1. What inspired you to choose this line of work?

An excellent method to learn more about your interviewee and see whether your objectives and motives are similar is to ask them these informational interview questions.

2. Could you tell me about the circumstances that led to you obtaining your present position?

Pay attention to the professional’s early jobs in their industry and the lessons they picked up along the road. This might provide information on the procedures you must follow to land the job.

3. What are the essential procedures one should follow to get ready for a job similar to yours?

This response provides clear, attainable benchmarks that you may use to create goals. Since the candidate initially started in their field, there may have been distinct steps for ambitious professionals in each setting.

4. What achievements do you feel distinguish you in this field?

Even though you should prepare the interviewee in advance, they might disclose more personally significant or unreported achievements when responding to these informational interview questions. In the future, you might discover unique strategies for differentiating yourself from other candidates.

5. Have you had any work experience outside of your field that has helped you succeed in your present role?

These informational interview questions might help you find out more about the professional’s previous employment and whether talents are transferable across industries.

6. What technical new abilities have you acquired since taking on this position?

Knowing this is crucial if the professional has changed careers.

7. Is your current job related to the major you studied in college?

If not, what path through your career brought you to this position? It is crucial to ascertain whether a particular postsecondary degree is required for the role they occupy. As an alternative, you might want to enquire about any relevant courses you should do to get ready for the career.

8. Which certifications are necessary or could help you stand out in this position?

Although you can do some preliminary study on certificates, a professional may have greater knowledge about which certifications are best to pursue.

9. Have you ever held an internship? Is having internship experience valued by your company?

Ask for advice on how to obtain internships and how doing internships might help you stand out as a candidate in the future. You can also give context by sharing your own experiences.

10. Could you describe what it’s like to operate or work for your organization?

Your career trajectory may benefit from the interviewee’s viewpoint, whether they are a manager, an independent contributor, or a business owner. You might be able to determine if the role and industry are a good fit for you based on their responses.

11. In what ways do you make decisions in your position?

These informational interview questions are especially crucial if the professional you’re interviewing has their own company, but all professionals should have a method of making decisions. You might obtain insight into the professional’s method for weighing employee, coworker, and customer needs when setting job priorities.

12. Can you define the culture of your organization?

The response to these informational interview questions should provide details about the organization’s values, leadership and management style, method of problem-solving, and method of treating people.

13. What do you like best about your job?

This could be a light-hearted method to get to know the person you’re interviewing better and discover why they appreciate their job.

14. What is the least appealing aspect of your job?

This is yet another excellent technique to discover the more challenging aspects of the work. Although no work is ideal, you might be more eager to take on some problems than others.

15. Do you have any significant projects in progress?

You might learn more about the job’s intriguing aspects and how the organization prioritizes work by asking these informational interview questions.

16. Do you work with a mentor? If yes, how have they aided your professional development?

While mentoring can be beneficial in any profession, your interviewee might provide specific advice on how to make the most of mentoring in this particular circumstance.

17. How many hours each day/week do you generally work?

Employees may need to put in unusually lengthy or irregular hours for some occupations. These informational interview questions will help you determine whether the timetable suits your needs.

18. Can you find a work-life balance in your line of work?

Find a natural opportunity for your interviewer to share information about their personal lives because this could be a more intimate question. Another topic worth bringing up at this point is paid time off and vacation.

19. Could you describe the most challenging or common obstacles you encounter in this position?

This might shed light on the job’s realities and whether or not the tasks seem like ones you would like to handle.

20. What other careers would you want to pursue if you were not in this one?

Pay attention to any related roles that you might potentially want to consider for your career.

How to Prepare for Informational Interviews

Preparing for informational interviews is essential to make the most of these valuable opportunities for learning and networking. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to prepare effectively:

  1. Set Clear Objectives:
    • Define your goals for the informational interview. What specific information are you seeking? Are you interested in learning about a particular industry, company, or career path? Clarifying your objectives will help you tailor your questions.
  2. Identify Potential Interviewees:
    • Research and identify professionals who have the expertise or experience you seek. You can find potential interviewees on LinkedIn, through professional networks, or by asking for referrals from your existing contacts.
  3. Request Interviews:
    • Reach out to potential interviewees with a polite and concise request for an informational interview. Clearly state your purpose and how their insights would be valuable to you. Be respectful of their time and availability.
  4. Conduct Background Research:
    • Before the interview, thoroughly research the interviewee’s background, career path, and accomplishments. Also, gather information about their industry or company.
  5. Prepare Questions:
    • Develop a list of thoughtful and well-researched questions. These should focus on the interviewee’s experiences, insights, and advice. Ask open-ended questions that encourage detailed responses.
  6. Practice Active Listening:
    • Prepare to actively listen during the interview. This means being fully engaged in the conversation, taking notes, and asking follow-up questions based on the interviewee’s responses.
  7. Review Your Resume and Story:
    • Be ready to discuss your own background and career goals briefly. Highlight your relevant skills and experiences, and be prepared to articulate what you hope to gain from the conversation.
  8. Dress Professionally:
    • Dress appropriately for the occasion, even if the interview is conducted virtually. Professional attire demonstrates respect for the process.
  9. Test Technology:
    • If the interview is conducted online or via phone, test the technology in advance to ensure a smooth conversation. Familiarize yourself with the video conferencing or calling platform.
  10. Prepare an Elevator Pitch:
    • Craft a concise elevator pitch that introduces yourself, your background, and your career aspirations. This can be useful in the initial moments of the interview.
  11. Plan for Follow-Up:
    • Consider how you will follow up after the interview. Prepare a thank-you email expressing your appreciation for their time and insights. Additionally, inquire about staying in touch or any further questions you may have.
  12. Respect Time Constraints:
    • During the interview, be mindful of the agreed-upon time limit. Respect the interviewee’s schedule and keep the conversation within the allocated timeframe.
  13. Stay Curious and Open-Minded:
    • Approach the interview with genuine curiosity and an open mind. Be receptive to the interviewee’s perspectives, even if they differ from your expectations.
  14. Take Notes:
    • Take thorough notes during the interview. These notes will help you retain the information you gather and can be valuable for future reference.
  15. Express Gratitude:
    • After the interview, send a thank-you email to express your appreciation for the interviewee’s time and insights. This helps maintain a positive professional relationship.

By diligently preparing for informational interviews, you demonstrate your respect for the interviewee’s expertise and increase your chances of gaining valuable insights, advice, and networking opportunities that can advance your career goals. Remember that these conversations are about learning and building connections, so approach them with enthusiasm and professionalism.

Recommendations for informational interview questions

To assist you in performing an effective informational interview; think about adopting the following advice:

  • Pick a professional to interview: You might be able to use your contacts to discover a professional in your field or industry. Your friends, family, or college or institution may have a network you can utilize to set up an interview, or they may know a person you can speak to.
  • Do some research on the professional before the interview: Learn more about the interviewee and the business they work for. Find information by searching company websites, online resumes, videos, and other media. Your choice of informational interview questions will be influenced by this information.
  • Get ready with at least five to ten informational interview questions: The interviewee must be interested in the informational interview questions for them to provide thoughtful responses. The informational interview questions length should be as brief as possible.
  • Pay attention to the professional’s time: Informational interviews can be conducted over the phone or by email, and they typically last 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Keep your attention on the interviewee: You will gain from this interview, but the professional will also have a chance to talk about their business and industry. The expert might feel more at ease and continue the conversation if given more time to speak.
  • Pay close attention and ask additional informational interview questions: Active listening techniques can make the interviewee feel more at ease, which will enable them to give you more insightful information.
  • Jot down: Bring a pencil or a pen and a journal. You can remember the material better if you take notes. This demonstrates to the interviewee that you are paying close attention.
  • Respectfully thank the professional for their time: After the interview, express your gratitude to the interviewer, and then follow up with a thank-you note. Include one or two items you discovered during the interview in your message. This act of politeness can help you make a positive first impression on your interviewee.


In conclusion, the art of crafting effective informational interview questions is a skill that can open doors to valuable insights and connections in your career journey. These questions serve as your compass, guiding your conversation toward a deeper understanding of a profession, industry, or company. By approaching informational interviews with genuine curiosity, active listening, and a thoughtful set of questions, you not only gain knowledge but also build meaningful relationships with experienced professionals who can offer guidance and support throughout your career. Remember, the quality of your questions can transform these interviews into invaluable learning experiences, making each conversation a stepping stone toward your goals.

Frequently Asked Questions about informational interview questions

  • What does the term “informational interview” mean?

An informational interview is a discussion between two people regarding their respective fields of expertise or current positions in the business sector. This kind of chat can be a wonderful way to find out more about a certain field or employment role and determine whether it might be a suitable fit for you in the future.

  • What takes place during an informational interview?

A meeting to learn more about the practical experience of someone employed by a firm or industry that interests you is known as an informational interview. It’s crucial to remain focused on gathering information rather than receiving a job offer because this isn’t an interview.

  • What is an informational interview’s primary objective?

An informational interview is not meant to help you acquire a job. Instead, the objective is to learn about potential careers and determine whether they align with your interests and character. Informational interviews can lead some people to the realization that their ideal job may not be so ideal after all.

  • What types of questions should I ask during an informational interview?
    • During an informational interview, it’s important to ask questions that help you gain insights into the interviewee’s career, industry, or company. Consider questions like:
      • “Can you tell me about your career journey and how you got started in this field?”
      • “What do you find most fulfilling about your work?”
      • “What challenges have you faced in this industry, and how did you overcome them?”
      • “What skills and qualifications are highly valued in this profession?”
      • “Can you share any insights on current trends or future developments in the industry?”
      • “What advice do you have for someone looking to enter this field?”
    • Tailor your questions based on your specific interests and goals for the informational interview. Remember to listen actively to the interviewee’s responses and ask follow-up questions to dig deeper into the topic.
  • How can I make my informational interview questions more impactful?
    • To make your informational interview questions more impactful, consider the following tips:
      • Research: Conduct thorough research on the interviewee, their background, and the industry or company. This allows you to ask more targeted and informed questions.
      • Focus on Insights: Frame your questions to elicit insights and experiences from the interviewee. Ask about real-world challenges, successes, and lessons learned.
      • Open-Ended Questions: Use open-ended questions that encourage detailed responses rather than yes/no answers. For example, ask “Can you describe…” instead of “Did you…?”
      • Be Genuine: Show genuine curiosity and interest in the interviewee’s responses. Engage in active listening and show appreciation for their insights.
      • Ask for Recommendations: Towards the end of the interview, consider asking for recommendations on books, resources, or other professionals to connect with for further learning.
      • Tailor Your Questions: Customize your questions to align with your career goals and the specific information you’re seeking. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice tailored to your situation.

Effective questions in informational interviews not only help you gather valuable information but also create a positive impression on the interviewee. They demonstrate your genuine interest in learning and building meaningful connections within your chosen field or industry.

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