What to Ask Your Informational Interviewee

You’ve succeeded in getting a potentially key new contact who works at a company of interest on the phone for 10, 15, or 20 minutes – congratulations!

Now, what do you do with that precious window of time?

The first thing to ensure is that you respect the time you’ve been given. You can be the most warm and charming person on the planet, but if you run way over your allotted time without permission, it will often leave a sour taste in your new connection’s mouth.

Once you’ve secured an informational interview, start mapping out what you’d like to discuss.

From having interviewed dozens of podcast guests, I can tell you that time flies by when someone is responding to good, thought-provoking questions.

When planning out your list of questions to ask, estimate 3-5 minutes of response time per question. This means that during a 15-minute call, you probably won’t get beyond 5 questions.

With that said, choose your questions wisely. Here are some to get you started:

  • What drew you to working in the role that you currently hold?
  • What do you love about your work at “X” company? What do you not love as much?
  • If you could change one thing about your role, what would it be?
  • What do you wish had known about the company/your role when you had started out?
  • What are the qualities of really successful people in the organization?
  • The Glassdoor reviews of your company are great/mixed/terrible. What would your Glassdoor review look like?
  • What does your company do better than its competitors? What could it be improving on?
  • What does the company leadership do well? Not as well?
  • What does the company leadership look like (if you haven’t been able to uncover this through internet research)?
  • How has your company adapted to COVID-19?
  • How does the company respond when an employee is in distress and needs to take a leave for personal reasons?

Whatever you choose to ask, the goal is to:

  1. Build an authentic new relationship and
  2. Obtain the information you need to make yourself more aware of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Having a greater awareness of the company and role will make you more confident in a job interview, since both of these things will already feel more familiar to you.

You’re also aiming to have a better understanding of how aggressively you’d like to pursue this company versus another one in the same industry.

Whatever questions you compile, always close your interview with these two brief questions:

  1. How can I support you in your work/whom can I connect you with?
  2. Is there anyone else you’d recommend I speak with, and would you be willing to put me in touch with them?

It’s important to reciprocate and be thankful for the effort your interviewee has shown you. And that final question often leads you to another great informational interview, allowing you to learn more and strengthen your network further.

What’s your favourite question to ask in an informational interview?

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