Informational interview guide (with questions to ask) – 2021 update

Check out our informational interview guide!

Updated in 2021

Whether you are in school, a bootcamp, or just not yet ready to start applying for positions, informational interviews are a good way to get your foot in the door. That is because they help you develop relationships with people who work at companies you are interested in and give you the opportunity to nurture connections.

An informational interview is an informal meeting or conversation in which you can get advice on your career, the industry, and the current culture at a company or in general of the workforce. They are important for expanding your network, gaining referrals, and keeping up-to-date on company and industry news. That’s why we created this informational interview guide so that you can learn how to plan these sessions, what to say, and how to follow up.

Who should you ask and how can you reach out?

In order to get informational interviews on your calendar, you need to figure out who to ask and how to reach out. Oftentimes it is good to start with people you already know. This means you can ask friends of your parents, professors if they know people in the industry, or former internship contacts to get the ball rolling. 

If you aren’t interested in any of those people, you can source your informational interviews the same way you would source any other job-related cold email. First, find people at companies you are interested in. Then, figure out your connection to them and send a polite, concise, and compelling cold email. Check out our cold email guide for more information on what to write and how to find email addresses. You can also look at our outline, which explains how to reach out to recruiters and includes contact information for Google recruiters, Facebook recruiters, and many more.

At the start of the conversation, you should expect to introduce yourself. To do this, prepare a quick version of your elevator pitch. In this introduction, let them know your current year in school or what you are working on. Include a little bit of information about your interests as well. Mainly, though, you should connect your experience and interests to the person and their company. This reminds them why they are spending time doing an informational interview with you. 

Here is a good template for your elevator pitch you can use:

Hi, I’m [name]. I am a current [year] at [school], majoring in [concentration]. I’ve always been interested in working in [field] so I have been doing a lot of research on [company] because you are really leading the charge in [topic]. I’m really excited to learn more about what it is like to work there and what you specifically do there in [position].

You should also expect that at some point they will ask you about your career goals. So, be ready with a response (it is better to be more specific than general here). Even if you aren’t positive, try to give an answer that relates to the person, position, and company.

Then, start with polite, friendly, and conversational questions to them:
  1. How did you get into this field?
  2. What is it like working at this company?
  3. Why did you choose to work here?
  4. What is your favorite part about working in this field?
  5. Do you have any thoughts about [recent development in field] and how that might affect the company?

Now, you can move onto questions that are specific to the field. These can help you by giving you some insider information on the company or the industry:

  1. How did you get to where you are in your career?
  2. What did you do when you were my age?
  3. Do you have advice for someone who is looking to break into this specific field?
  4. What factored into your decision to choose this job at this company over other ones?
  5. Looking at my resume and experience, what would you say I should continue to do or start focusing on so I can get a job at your company or on your ream in 1-2 years?
  6. When you were applying for jobs, what were the most important aspects of your resume or portfolio?
  7. Looking back on your job search, what would you change?
  8. Do you expect that your company will be hiring for these types of roles in the near future?
  9. What experience or skills does your company look for in new hires? Especially new grad positions.
  10. How do you see the industry changing? Is there something I should be learning so I can get ahead of the curve?

Asking intelligent and thoughtful questions will help your contact realize that you mean business. It also establishes that you would be a good candidate in the future. You can even write them down in a notebook before the interview and use that as a reference. But, be sure you follow the flow of the conversation, don’t just ask question after question without having a conversation.

In addition, you can tap into their network towards the end of the conversation by asking them if they have any coworkers or friends in the industry with whom you can also schedule informational interviews.

Post informational interview

After the interview, make sure that you send them a follow up email, thanking them for taking the time to chat with you and reiterating how much you learned. Personalize the email by including something specific from your conversation. Then, you can follow up with them when you are getting closer to starting your job search or when you have started your job search to see if they are hiring and if so, if they can refer you. Check out our follow up email templates for more information on what to include.

Informational interviews can help you learn insider information about specific roles, industries, and companies as well as get your foot in the door and create warm contacts, so they are definitely worth the time to pursue. The conversations can be relatively short (20-30 minutes) and can happen over the phone or coffee, if you are in the same city.

With this informational interview guide, you should be ready to schedule meetings that help you get started on your career.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With these tips and guidance, we’ve seen application responses triple for fellows in the program.

If you want to work with any of our mentors 1-on-1 to get help with your informational interviews or with any other aspect of the job search, become a Pathrise fellow. 

Apply today.

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