The Best Questions To Ask in an Informational Interview

Updated August 10, 2023

In this article, we explain why it’s important to prepare the questions you will ask during an informational interview, provide a list of good questions to ask during your conversation and include some tips for conducting a successful interview.

30 informational interview questions

The questions you ask in an informational interview should be tailored and relevant to the interviewee's industry, so be sure to customize your list as it makes sense. Below are several questions to consider asking a professional during your next informational interview:

1. Why did you decide to work in this industry?

The question is a great way to get to know your interviewee and understand whether your goals and motivations align.

Related: Guide: How To Succeed at a Hiring Event or Open Interview

2. Can you tell me about what led up to earning your current position?

Listen for the early roles the professional held in their field and what they learned along the way. This can offer details about the steps you need to take to get the job.

3. What are the most vital steps someone should take to prepare for a role like yours?

This answer offers distinct, actionable milestones you might set goals to achieve. Each situation is different, and there may be varied steps for aspiring professionals since the interviewee first entered their field.

Related: How To Ask For an Informational Interview

4. What accomplishments do you feel set you apart in this industry?

While you should research your interviewee ahead of time, they may reveal more personally meaningful or unreported accomplishments when answering this question. You might learn specific ways to set yourself apart from other applicants in the future.

5. Did you have any professional experiences unrelated to this industry that allowed you to excel in your current position?

This question is good to learn about the professional's work history and which skills can translate across industries.

6. What new skills have you developed as a professional since taking this role?

This is especially important to know if the professional changed careers.

7. Was your undergraduate major relevant to your current position?

If not, how did your career path lead you to this role? It is important to determine whether specific postsecondary education is vital for the position they hold. Alternatively, you may want to ask about any pertinent courses you should take to prepare for the profession.

8. Which certifications are required or can help set you apart in this role?

You can research information about certifications beforehand, but the professional may be able to provide more insight into the right certifications to pursue.

9. Have you worked as an intern? Does your company value internship experience?

Follow up by asking the best ways to find internship opportunities and how internships can make you a more competitive candidate. You can also share your experience to provide context.

Read more: What Is the Purpose of an Internship? (Plus Tips)

10. Can you tell me what it is like to work for (or run) your company?

Whether the interviewee is a manager, individual contributor or business owner, their perspective may help inform your career path. Their answers may also help you decide if the position and industry are right for you.

11. What kinds of decisions do you make in your role?

This question is particularly important if the professional you're interviewing runs their own business, but all professionals should have a decision-making process. You may gain an understanding of how the professional prioritizes tasks and employee, coworker or customer needs.

12. Can you describe your company culture?

The answer to this question should offer insights into the company’s values, management and leadership style, approach to solving challenges and approach to treating employees.

Related: How To Describe the Culture of the Company You Work For

13. What’s your favorite thing about your job?

This can be a fun way to learn more about your interviewee while learning about why they find the role enjoyable.

14. What’s your least favorite thing about your job?

This is another great way to learn about the more difficult realities of the job. No job is perfect, but you may be more interested in handling the challenges of some roles over others.

15. Are there any important projects you are currently working on?

This question may give you insight into what makes the job interesting and how the company prioritizes work.

16. Do you have a mentor? If so, how have they helped you in your career?

While mentorship can be valuable in any role, your interviewee may outline specific best practices to get the most of mentorship in this specific role.

Related: How To Find a Mentor in 5 Steps

17. How many hours do you typically work during the day? Week?

Some jobs may require employees to work irregular or long hours. You should ask this question to get a sense of whether the schedule works for you.

18. Are you able to establish a work/life balance in your field?

This may be a more personal question, so find a natural time when your interviewer offers details about their life outside of work. This may also be a good time to discuss vacation time and paid time off.

19. Can you tell me about the most difficult or frequent challenges you face in the role?

This can illuminate the realities of the job and whether the challenges feel like ones you would enjoy taking on.

Related: How To Get the Most Benefit From an Informational Interview

20. If you weren’t in this position, what others would you be interested to pursue?

Listen for adjacent roles you may also consider for your career path.

Related: How To Prepare for an Informal Interview

21. Can you tell me about what a typical day in your job entails?

This can inform you of the common day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of the job to better understand whether the actual work seems enjoyable and interesting.

22. I've done some research on entry-level salaries in this industry. Are these figures accurate?

Many professionals may opt to keep information about their own salaries private, but they may offer general information about pay, like average salaries or standard earnings for entry-level employees.

23. What are the greatest rewards you have experienced in your industry or company?

Rewards may include personal benefits as well as monetary ones.

Related: 20 of the Most Rewarding Careers

24. What surprised you the most about your position and industry?

This is a good way to learn unexpected information you may not have thought to ask specifically about.

25. What do you wish you had known before you started in this industry?

This question can help set expectations and offer insights into how you should prepare to enter the job or industry.

26. Where do you think you'll be in five years? 10 years?

This answer may provide you with insight into advancement opportunities within a company or career path.

Related: Interview Question: "Where Will You Be in 5 Years?"

27. Are there any other questions I should be asking you?

Whether you should’ve phrased a question differently or have forgotten to ask about an important aspect of the position, company or industry, the interviewee might help you here.

28. Can you recommend any professional publications or associations that could help me in my professional development?

Asking about contacts and trade publications can help you prepare for work in the industry. You might also ask about industry books, podcasts and newsletters you can read or subscribe to.

29. Could you refer me to anyone else who has intimate knowledge about this job?

The interviewee may be able to put you into contact with another professional in the industry who can further assist you.

30. Can we stay in touch?

You should use the opportunity of the informational interview to build your professional network. You may be able to keep in contact with the professional through social media or via email.

Related: Informational Interview Questions

Informational interview tips

Consider using these tips to help you conduct a successful informational interview:

  • Choose a professional to interview: You may be able to find a professional in your industry or field to interview through your contacts. Your friends or family may know someone you can talk to or your college or university might have a network you can use to set up an interview.

  • Research the professional before your interview: Get to know more about the person you're interviewing and their company. Find information via company websites, professional profiles, videos and other types of media. This information will inform the type of questions you ask.

  • Prepare at least five to 10 questions: These questions need to engage the interviewee and allow them to give thorough answers. Keep the questions as short as possible.

  • Respect the professional's time: Informational interviews generally last for 20 to 25 minutes in person, or they can take place via email.

  • Keep the focus on the interviewee: Although this interview benefits you, the interview provides the professional an opportunity to talk about themselves, their company and their industry. When the professional receives more time to talk, they may feel more comfortable and extend the conversation.

  • Listen closely and ask follow-up questions: By using active listening skills, you may help the interviewee to feel more comfortable, which in turn allows them to provide you with more useful information.

  • Take notes: Bring a notebook and a pen or pencil. When you take notes, you can retain the information better. This also shows the interviewee that you are listening closely.

  • Thank the interviewee for their time: You should thank the interviewer right after the interview and later in a thank-you note. In your message, list one or two things you learned during the interview. This is a courtesy that can help you leave a good impression on the interviewee.

Frequently asked questions

What are the main benefits of an informational interview?

An informational interview can be an effective way to learn more about a career path by asking people in that respective field about their practical experience. Some specific benefits of conducting an informational interview are:

  • You get career-specific advice. The main benefit of having informational interviews is that the person you're asking questions to is experienced in a particular field and can give you specific advice. This lets you personalize your approach and get relevant information and advice to help your career. 

  • You may get insider information on certain topics. Since informational interviews don't have a specific purpose, like deciding whether a candidate is appropriate for a specific position, both parties can have a slightly more informal approach. This can reveal aspects of an industry that may otherwise be challenging to determine, such as average wages, the number of hours you're likely to work each week and any additional benefits.

  • You can expand your professional network. Informational interviews are an effective way to get acquainted with people who work in a specific industry. Talking with them and taking their contact information helps you expand your relevant professional network.

  • You get to practice interviewing. As you're the one asking the questions, conducting informational interviews can be an effective way of understanding job interviews from the employer's perspective. This can help you improve your approach when attending job interviews.

How can I find relevant people to speak with when organizing informational interviews?

There are several potential sources where you can find people who can provide valuable information about a job or industry. You can start by building a professional network online and contacting multiple individuals to explore their availability for a discussion. There are also offline networking events that you can attend, such as industry-specific gatherings and job fairs. Get contact information from people you think can help you and contact them later to invite them to informational interviews.

What is an effective way to ask someone for an informational interview?

An appropriate way to invite someone to an informational interview is by sending them a message via the Internet. You can use "Informational interview request" as the message title, so they immediately know what your message is about. An effective informational interview request typically includes mentioning how you discovered the letter recipient, why you think they can help you understand a specific job or industry and the amount of time you ask from them. You can also include a suggestion regarding the time and date of the interview.

When drafting your message, it usually helps to use a professional tone and ensure it's free of spelling or grammatical errors. If they don't respond within two weeks, consider sending them a polite follow-up to ask them if they perhaps didn't see your message. If you still don't get a reply, you may take it as a sign that the respective person either doesn't receive your messages or isn't interested in the invitation.

Related Articles

Top 10 Personal Interview Questions (Plus Tips for Answering)

Explore more articles

  • FAQ: How Many Applications Does It Take To Get a Job?
  • 25 Well-Paying Careers That Require a College Degree
  • 9 Careers in Transportation To Explore
  • What Is a Website Administrator?
  • Is Finance Consumer Services a Good Career Path? (With Jobs)
  • Pros and Cons of a Career in the Welding Industry
  • What Is a Palliative Care Nurse and What Do They Do?
  • Q&A: How Long Do You Have to Work to Get Unemployment?
  • 21 Stable Jobs You Can Pursue in the Film Industry
  • 22 Careers for Music Majors
  • Project Manager vs. Superintendent: What're the Differences?
  • Teacher Aide vs. Teaching Assistant: Definitions and Skills