Informational Interviews

With an appointment in place, the next step is to research the occupation, industry, organization or company and develop a list of questions. Open ended questions are the most useful to gather the information you need. It is appropriate to take notes of important facts and impressions. Here are some sample questions:

  • What is your job like?
    • Can you describe a typical day?
    • What are the duties/responsibilities/functions of your job?
    • What issues do you deal with?
    • What kinds of decisions do you make?
    • What percentage of your time is doing what?
  • How did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
  • What jobs and experience led up to your present position?
  • Can you suggest some ways a student could obtain this necessary experience?
  • What are the most important personal satisfactions connected with your occupation? Dissatisfactions?
  • What do you find most satisfying? Most challenging?
  • What things did you do before you entered this occupation?
    • Which have been most helpful?
    • What other jobs can you get with the same background?
  • What were the keys to your career advancement?
  • What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field?
  • What are the most essential skills to be effective? How did you learn these skills?
  • What work-related values are strongest in this type of work (security, high income, variety, independence)?
  • If your position were suddenly eliminated, what other kinds of work do you feel prepared to do?
  • Does the economy affect your industry? How?
  • What can you tell me about the employment outlook for this field?
    • How much demand is there for people in this occupation?
    • How rapidly is the field growing?
  • How has your job affected your lifestyle?
    • Is there a salary ceiling?
  • From your perspective, what are the challenges you see working in this field?
  • What are the major frustrations of this job?
  • What interests you the least about the job or creates the most stress?
  • If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?
  • What are the educational requirements to do this job? What types of credentials or licenses are required?
  • What types of training do companies offer persons entering the field?
    • Is graduate school recommended? An MBA?
  • How well did your college experience prepare you for this job?
  • What courses have proved to be the most valuable in your work? What would you recommend for me?
  • How important are grades/GPA for obtaining a job in this field?
  • What abilities or personal qualities do you believe contribute most to success in this field/job?
  • What advice would you give to someone considering this kind of work?
    • Are there written materials you suggest I read?
    • Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more about the field?
  • What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage someone pursuing a career in this field?
  • My strongest assets, (skills, areas of knowledge, personality traits and values) are:
    • Where would they fit in this field?
    • Where might they fit in other fields?
  • Would you mind taking a look at my resume?
  • What other professionals in the field might be helpful for me to talk with?

Leveraging Your Contacts

Below are questions that networking contacts might be able to help you address, along with suggestions on how you can ask for help.

Looking for a job in a specific city or region

"I'm looking for positions in manufacturing in your area, and there are four companies that interest me. Can you tell me what you know about these companies, and whether you know any people to contact at each organization? . . . . . . .I'm also hoping you can suggest other companies in this area that I might want to consider."

Seeking more information about an alum's employer

"I'm interested in your company but I'm not really sure what kinds of opportunities there are for people with my degree and background. Can you answer a few questions and tell me what you know about jobs related to my major? . . . . . . Also, do you know who I should contact if I want to apply for jobs?"

Exploring a contact's career field

"Your background looks very interesting and I was wondering how you got into your line of work. I'm considering a career in this area also."