An informational interview is usually a conversation with someone working in the field you want to pursue. The purpose of the most useful informational interview questions is to help you explore the career path, and you’ll typically have around 30 minutes to accomplish that.
Well-thought-out informational interview questions can help you squeeze out the most valuable details about the job, the company, or the industry you want to work in. However, you might find it difficult to come up with enough ideas or wonder whether they are appropriate for this context.
Fret not—we’ve created this article to equip you with 25 questions to ask, plus five extra interview tips.
Let’s dive right into it!
- Asking about typical compensation for a job or the field is acceptable, but the best way to do it would probably be to ask for a salary range instead of the exact amount they offer, as many people are not comfortable sharing that information.
- Ask about the downsides of the job to discover the main obstacles you might come across.
- The fundamental question is, ‘Why did you choose this career path?’ because you’ll hear about interviewee’s main passion for pursuing this career.
- The question about the most surprising thing about the industry can help you prepare for the unexpected, and the interviewee may also provide a solution.
- The questions can be divided into three broad categories: job-related, industry-related, and company-related.
25 Questions to Ask at an Informational Interview
If you have an informational interview coming up, asking the most revealing questions about the company, job, or industry you’re interested in is the main goal, as this will likely make it much easier for you to decide whether it’s the right path for you.
So, here are 25 questions we think might provide the biggest potential return on your and your interviewee’s time investment.
First, let’s start with job-related informational interview questions.
#1. Why did you choose this career path?
This is a fundamental question. You can learn a lot from the answer because it should reveal their passions and the reasons they’re on a particular career path.
If you get a comprehensive answer, you’ll better understand whether this path aligns with your career aspirations, and you’ll be better equipped to answer interview questions about your career goals when the time comes for that.
On the other hand, you should ask it because you may be pursuing a particular career for all the wrong reasons, and getting the whys and hows from someone who already works in it can paint a more realistic picture.
#2. What skills are required for this position?
Ideally, you possess all, or at least most, of the skills required for the job. If not, by asking for a list of necessary skills, you can devise a strategy for brushing up on those that need to be advanced.
Moreover, you can see what other skills you may gain if you’re hired for this position, which would be a great addition to your professional portfolio.
#3. What’s your typical day at work?
This is important because you’ll want to know if the workday’s pace and flow match your abilities and expectations. Additionally, based on their answers, you can glance at the routine of the average employee and plan how to fit into that rhythm.
When they inform you of concrete duties employees must complete during the day, you may compare them with what you’ve read in the job description and see if the appealing benefits from the ad align with the actual daily responsibilities.
#4. What do you like the most about this position?
You should ask this question because you’re likely to hear the top advantage of being in the role, at least from your interviewee’s point of view.
They could list reasons that keep them happy with the job and state what motivates them, and if most of those align with your needs and wants, you can be more sure you’re on a good path.
Moreover, they might reveal some crucial aspects of the job you didn’t know about, and that could give you extra reasons to pursue the job.
#5. What are downsides to this job?
There’s no reason to be shy while asking this question. You may find that the downside they mention is an absolute deal-breaker for you, so it’s better to know right away.
Sometimes, when people skip this question, they get all the way to the end of the recruitment process only to realize the job wasn’t something they hoped it would be.
#6. What are some of the skills you gained while working at your job?
One of the reasons why many people start new jobs is that they want to improve their skills or learn new ones. Who better to ask than a person working there?
You’ll see whether they benefited much from working there, depending on the number of skills they managed to attain. By getting this information, you will be able to grasp the degree to which you can enrich your skill set if hired for this position.
#7. What certifications are required for this job?
If there are specific certifications that are necessary for this job, you will want to know. If some are desirable but not mandatory, that’s fine. However, if some are crucial for the job and you don’t have them, it’s unlikely you’ll have enough time to get the certification before your first day at work.
Finally, if you have the job-specific certification, mentioning that to the interviewee may give you some extra points if they’re in charge of the hiring process that you might participate in at some point or if they can recommend you for a position where that certification is a plus.
#8. Are internships a plus for this role?
Candidates who completed internships related to the job may have an advantage, so it’s important to ask. The interviewee may give you more information about what internships are helpful and how to get them.
You can also ask follow-up questions about those you may have completed.
If the internship is considered an advantage, the company likely values previous experience, so it may be easier to find a job in their company.
#9. What is your biggest challenge at the job right now?
Knowing the answer to this question is of utmost importance, as your ability to overcome the central challenge of the job might make or break your success in the role. . This critical challenge likely applies to most people pursuing the job, not just the interviewee.
You’ll get helpful information about the specifics of the difficulty, and you might get some tips on how to face it. You should also take some time to think about it and develop your own strategies for tackling it.
#10. How demanding is this position?
You should ask this question so you can mentally prepare for the level of difficulties you’ll likely encounter. If they say the position is highly demanding, a few follow-up informational interview questions about the job’s key duties would help to further dive into the matter.
They may describe the most demanding parts and offer tips on how to best deal with the tasks when they get tricky.
#11. What is the salary range for this position?
Asking for a salary range is completely fine. While the working conditions and general terms are essential, we can’t ignore the importance of meeting your salary expectations for the job.
The answer to this question may tell you whether it’s worth leaving the current job that pays roughly the same or even more.
Now, let’s move on to the industry-related informational interview questions.
#12. Why did you decide to work in this industry?
If you were wondering about good questions to ask someone about their career, this one is definitely at the top of that list.
The answer to the question may help you learn more about the field and how it works and see if their top reason matches your motive to start a career in that field.
#13. What’s the most surprising thing about this industry?
Getting an answer to this question could be a means of preparing for the unexpected. You’ll find out whether or not you’re ready to deal with particular aspects of the role that could catch you off-guard.
Their answers are valuable since they may include solutions for these surprising things, and you can assess how plausible they are.
#14. How has the industry changed since you started working?
Ask this question to see the industry dynamics and how well the company has adapted to them. If they provide specific details on what has changed over the years, you can assess the market and what changes might reoccur.
If they say that not much has changed, this may be a sign that the company hasn’t been up-to-date with all recent developments, as change is inevitable in any business.
#15. Why do people leave this field?
You shouldn’t skip this question because it can reveal critical aspects of the workplace or industry, and you may see whether some issues are big enough to make you want to leave it one day.
You might find information you previously feared, and if they confirm it, it’s up to you to decide whether the issue is something you can work around or if you’d have to change your career soon after you’re hired for a job in this field.
#16. What are the main challenges that affect businesses in this industry?
This one plays an immense role in your list of pros and cons of the industry. Knowing what challenges can make or break a business is vital information that could help you decide whether or not it pays off to stay in the field.
The challenges that companies face within a particular industry may be oversaturation, intense competition, or the effects that technological advancements such as AI have on the company’s operations.
Judging by what you hear, you may conclude whether the particular business has what it takes to thrive in that industry’s environment.
#17. Is it easy to stay competitive in this field?
This question is a simple one. One should ask it to see how tough the competition in the particular job market can be.
If the response you get is that the field is highly competitive but also very rewarding due to room for individual growth, you can state that as your motivation for applying for a job in that company, should it ever come to that.
#18. Is the industry expanding enough to take on many new professionals?
The question of how many new professionals the industry can take is paramount, as you may not want to work in a narrow field because it’s usually challenging to get in. The chances of getting a job are slim if there are 1,000 applicants and only ten vacancies.
However, your interviewee may indicate whether the industry is rapidly expanding and what opportunities you may have if you decide to start a career in this field.
#19. Do you plan to stay in this industry, and for how long?
If they’re not planning to stay in the field or plan to leave soon, chances are that you wouldn’t want to embark on this journey. The person to whom you’re asking this question is your primary reference for how rewarding the industry is, so ask away.
Their answers can inspire you to try your best to get the job and enter a field that offers numerous opportunities for career growth.
Always keep in mind that this is still just their personal perspective and that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d have the same reasons for staying or leaving the industry.
Finally, let’s get down to the company-related informational interview questions.
#20. What is the interview process like in your company?
If you can ask this question, don’t miss it! Knowing what to expect through the selection process is invaluable since you can prepare for some parts.
For instance, if you have a video interview at some point, you can work on the script and polish it up in preparation for your pre-recorded interview.
Similarly, you can practice specifically for each part of the selection process and come fully prepared and ready to land your dream job.
#21. Considering my background, how well do you think I would fit in this company?
This initial feedback may tell you how strong your chances for the role are. If they say you lack specific skills or experience and you think otherwise, explain why that’s different than it seems to them or how you can build on those weak points.
However, if they provide positive feedback, that may boost your confidence and encourage you to do your best to get the job.
#22. Does the company have financial difficulties at the moment?
As unpleasant as it may seem, you often need to ask this question, especially if you come across information about the company while doing your research.
You wouldn’t want to get on a sinking ship, so it’s better to rule out the fundamental flaws before considering the job.
The answer can essentially be yes or no. If the company has problems and they’re transparent about them, you can decide whether it’s wise to pursue a job there. If they tell you that the company is on top of their game, that’s a green light, for sure.
#23 What measures does the company take to prevent burnout?
Employees sometimes exert themselves in an attempt to deliver the best results, and they forget to take care of their mental health. So, you need to know whether or not the company has a strategy for preventing burnouts.
Gym and spa expenses or occasional team building could be such perks that help the staff relax and unwind.
#24. What are the main objectives of this company in the years to come?
With this question, you aim to look into how growth-oriented the company is and its plans for the future. If the company has various goals for growth, that’s a great sign that you can also climb the company ladder at some point.
Some of the aspirations a company may have could be human or individual objectives, like strategies for providing incentives for employees, plans for improving personal growth, or more health-conscious working environments.
#25. What accomplishments set the company apart in this industry?
You should ask this question to see how successful the company is.
It’s good to know that the organization you’ll potentially work for has a sizable list of accomplishments they’ve achieved but also a plan for those they seek to attain.
You may get a reply that includes impressive numbers and even awards the company has received. This can be an additional incentive for you to do your best to get the job.
5 Tips for Informational Interview Interviews
Now that we’ve covered the informational interview questions, let’s move on to what you can do to better prepare for the interview.
These are our five tips to help you make the most of the conversation:
- Come prepared. Research the company and/or the person you’re going to talk to, and think through the questions thoroughly. You have to be aware that the interviewee’s time is limited and that you should both respect it and make the most of it.
- Take notes. Before taking notes, ask the interviewee if it’s OK to do that. Your notes can help you come up with additional questions, or you can build upon some of those you’ve already intended to ask.
- Actively listen. We can’t stress this enough. Other than just asking the questions, analyze the answers and let the interviewee speak as much as possible.
- Ask follow-up questions. While the conversation flows, you may come up with additional questions you want to ask, so jot them down. That way, you can choose to ask them at the exact moment inspiration strikes or save them for the end.
Maybe you’re not used to being the one asking questions, but everything is likely to run smoothly if you prepare thoroughly, research the interviewee, actively listen, and take notes.
Plus, reference this article for all the essential questions you may need for the session, as these should help you extract as much information about the job, the industry, and the company as possible.