How to Prepare Your Informational Interview Question in Advance


Asking good informational interview questions will give you great insight into the job, career or profession you desire. Follow the four steps to learn what to include and run it effectively.



1. Interview topics and questions

The interview topics can be general or specific in nature. This will depend on your career goals and objectives and also what stage of your career exploration you are in. The topics and related questions are explained in detail below:

  • General discussion - informational interview questions are general in nature when you are in the initial stages of your career exploration. This is when you are considering various options in your career development plan and have not fixed your mind on any particular path. The informational interview questions should be structured in a way that enables you to discuss and explore several possibilities. You can have these discussions with your manager or others who work in areas of your career interest.
    • Questions to ask - during a general discussion would be around getting further information about the department or area, career or profession you are considering.

      The informational interview question should focus around getting to know more about the area, the type of people who work in that area and the skills and competencies required to successfully perform.

      If you are looking to move into a different company or industry then you should structure your informational interview questions to get further information about the company or industry.

      It will be helpful if you set some time aside during the discussion to explain a little bit about your background and why you have an interest in certain areas. It might pay to take a copy of your internal or external resume with you for reference

  • Specific discussion - informational interview question can be specific in nature when you are narrowing down your career options. This is when you have considered various options and now want to find out detailed information about one or a few areas based on your career interests and aspirations. The informational interview questions should be structured in a way that enables you to dig deeper and get into the details. As a result more planning is required before having these meetings. You can have these discussions with usually a subject matter expert, department head or even people who are actually in the positions that you are aiming for.
    • Questions to ask - during a specific discussion would focus around getting to know in more detail about the job, area, profession or company you are aiming for. The informational interview question should help you to find out specific skills and competencies required for success. When you are considering moving into another job or career then it is likely that you will need to demonstrate some level of proficiency in entry competencies or minimum competencies required to get the job or work in the area. So, make sure you find out about them.

      A discussion around roles and responsibilities would be worthwhile including what will be expected of you in the first six months in the position. You should also find out who will be your customers and the level of interaction you will have with them.

      An informational interview question about the department's goals and objectives and how performance is measured will give you additional information.

      Finally, you should also ask about career paths and career development opportunities in the area to get an idea about how you could grow and develop in that area.

      Again, as mentioned earlier, it will be helpful if you set some time aside during the discussion to explain a little bit about your background and why you have an interest in certain areas. It might pay to take a copy of your internal or external resume with you for reference



2. How to set it up and run it effectively

Once you have decided on what to include in your informational interview questions it is time to set it up and then run it effectively.

Some key things to do and look out for are:

  • Define objective and prepare questions

  • Identify the person

  • Pick a time and a place

  • Send a reminder

  • Visualize

  • Start the meeting

  • Cover the topics

  • Be open to new discussions

  • Ask for contacts

  • Close and thank the person

 

Click here to get more details on the above points. Finally, one important thing to remember is that an informational interview is not a job interview. Do not ask for a job as yet - that could be an outcome at a later stage. Asking such a question could leave the other person in an uncomfortable situation so avoid that. It is always best to leave the door open and have a good discussion around your career interests and aspirations - this itself will send a subtle message to the other person that you may be interested in an opening.

Also, do appear smart and dress accordingly. Put on a suit if the occasion calls for. Remember, first impressions are important!


3. Investigate opportunities for real time research

Informational interviews present a very good opportunity to ask for permission or assistance with real time research such as shadowing, working for some time in the actual role and taking on cross-department assignments. Each of these will present you further opportunity to really get a feel for what it will be like working in the job or profession you desire.

Of course, this may be somewhat harder to accomplish if you are looking at moving to another company but it is something you should seriously consider while undergoing a career change within your present company. So, do not forget to include this as an informational interview question.


4. Integrate information into your career development plan

The informational interview questions you ask will enable you to collect a lot of information about the job or career your desire by the time you have concluded the interviews.

Record them in a proper place such as your journal. Integrate action steps into your career development plan. That way, all of it stays in one document and makes it easier for you to follow up.





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