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5 Questions You Should Ask at an Informational Interview
Congratulations! A professional contact agreed to meet you to share details about his or her career with you… but what questions should you ask when the two of you meet?
You plucked up the courage to ask an industry professional to share some career insights with you. This person happened to have time for you, and agreed to meet you to answer your questions about his or her profession.
Everything is falling into place for this informational interview! But do you have your questions ready for it?
It's great that you've successfully managed to get someone in a position that you're interested in to meet you, but that's only half the effort. Moving forward, you'll need to prepare targeted, thoughtful questions for the meet-up, as you’d want to make good use of the opportunity by getting as much useful information as possible.
Sounds tough? Don’t worry, here are five questions you can ask during an informational interview.
1. “Why did you choose this career path?”
This is a good conversation starter. You get to understand the motivation behind why that person was initially drawn to his or her current career and industry.
The response to this question will also help give you some context as to what you can ask next, especially if anything interesting crops up mid-conversation and you want to probe further.
2. “What were the key highlights from your past experiences that helped you most in your current role?”
As a graduate, you’re just starting (or just about to start) your career. It takes time and experience to get to where a successful industry professional is at in his or her career journey.
Go ahead and dig into your contact’s professional history and find out how he or she arrived at this current point in his or her career. For instance, it may be a technical skill that really helped him or her achieve great career successes.
And if that’s the case, you may want to look into it and perhaps even pick up this skill. Information like this will be useful when you have to make career decisions later in your professional journey.
3. “What would you say are some of the biggest rewards of your position?”
The first question on this list uncovers why this person chose his or her career path. However, it’s also important to discover what continues to keep them motivated.
Is it the high pay? Or is it the job satisfaction that keeps him or her going?
You want to make sure the career path you choose is one that aligns with your values and priorities. Finding out the pros of the role will allow you to evaluate if they match up with what you want and like.
4. “What were the setbacks you faced in your career journey and what are the challenges you encounter in your current role?”
No success comes without challenges and difficulties. It would be interesting to know more about the kind of tough situations that someone in this line of work will have to deal with so you know what to expect.
If the challenge involves a specific knowledge gap, for instance, you can consider taking the time to learn more about the subject and gain relevant skills and experience to bridge this gap.
5. “What advice would you give to someone like me who’s just about to start his or her career path that's similar to yours?”
This can act as a closing question for the informational interview. It'll help you wrap things up and gather this person’s final thoughts.
You should also try to get some information which you can act on. Are there any books you should be reading to learn more about the industry? Should you be looking into a certain certification that’ll make you more employable for the role you are interested in?
These tips will help you prepare and plan adequately for your career journey ahead.