Learn why you should prepare questions in advance of your informational interview, what questions are best, and the benefits of taking notes.
- There's nothing worse than to schedule an informational interview and arrive without prepared questions. This person is giving you time out of their busy day with no real tangible benefit for them, so you need to be prepared. I'm going to share reasons why you should prepare questions in advance, what questions are best, and the benefits of taking notes. Even for a casual informational interview, you want to be prepared. You want to avoid awkward moments of silence.
In an informational interview, the responsibility to ask questions is 100% on you. To prepare the best questions, research the company and the person you're meeting with. Remember, you have very limited time, so you want to ask questions that will help you the most. You don't want to take up precious time with extensive small talk or irrelevant questions. You'll break the ice and hit it off quicker if you know some of the person's interests and history.
Then, see if you can naturally work some of these things into your conversation. If you allow this person to talk about themselves as you're asking questions, they'll like you better. I've included a handout with a list of possible questions to ask. These questions will apply whether you're a recent college grad, returning to the workforce, attempting to advance in your career, or are pursuing a new career. And remember to listen. When you're asking questions, listen carefully to the answers.
If you don't understand something, ask the person to clarify their response because you're obtaining information that's not available anywhere else. Also, listen carefully if your contact ends up asking you a question or offering to help. Stop asking questions at that point and react to what they said. And finally, take notes during your conversation. Your contact will appreciate the fact that you respect their advice.
Write down key points you don't want to forget, but don't let your note taking distract from the flow of your conversation. When the agreed upon time is over it's wise to say, you agreed to meet with me for 20 minutes, and I want you to know how much you've helped me with your insights and advice. Often, at this point, your contact will offer to keep answering questions because you respected their time. End your informational interview with questions that will lead to more contacts.
Simply say, is there anyone else you think I should speak to? Then ask, is there anything I should've asked you? The answer to that question often results in the best information of the interview. When you've conducted successful informational interviews, you sound like an insider. You have new contacts, and if you really did a great job, you have someone in your chosen profession who is now mentoring you.
- Informational interview vs. job interview
- Selecting a specific occupation
- Identifying appropriate companies and contacts
- Scheduling an informational interview
- Preparing and researching before an interview
- Updating your résumé
- Asking good questions
- Listening and taking notes
- Following up
- Contacting referrals
- Building your network