Imagine this… You are a college student or recent grad and you attend a networking event because you are told that this is what you “should” be doing to find a job. Luck is on your side and you meet a fellow college alumnus who invites you to meet for coffee to learn more about you and share his insights about his job. It is not exactly a formal interview, but it is an informational interview where you need to impress this person to get further in your search. You may think, “I’ll just ask them a few questions and the other person can do all the talking. It’s casual.” Getting information is helpful, but you can maximize the interaction by making an impression and sharing the skills you have to offer. Preparation is key.

So, what do you say when you show up? Here are tips of some strong questions to ask on your next informational interview:


1. Tell me about your role. What did you do early in your career to help you get here? 

This helps you understand their career path. Review their LinkedIn profile ahead of time so you can reference specific jobs they held. People especially like to reminisce about when they were in college. It is helpful to understand if certain classes, activities or internships were useful to them as they progressed.

2. What are the greatest challenges that you face in this role?

This allows you to see the difficulties that exist in a certain company or industry. Not all workplace experiences are rosy and this will share the reality of what goes on in the workplace. It is better to understand the “true” view of a work environment before you get there.

3. How does your company measure its success?

The answer to this question can help you in future interviews when a company asks, “How can you help us?” If you understand how they are measured you can focus in on helping them achieve success by demonstrating your applicable skills.

4. What advice would you offer to someone starting out who wants to get into this industry?

This answer will help you understand if you have the skills needed for a position at their firm. It will also give you some guidance on how to proceed to learn more about the job or industry to better compete for an opportunity.

5. Is there anyone else that you think I should speak with? Can we stay in touch?

The goal of every informational interview is to stay in touch with that person and have them connect you to more people. This not only expands your network but the scope of opportunities you may find out about. This gives you a great excuse to follow up and continue to build your relationship.

Make sure to follow up after an informational interview with a thank you note, connect with them on LinkedIn, and check the company’s website for job openings that your contact may be able to help to you connect with directly.

The informational interview is a great opportunity for students and grads to learn more about the different fields they are interested in. It is also one of the most powerful tools that lead to a job out of college. The goal of an informational interview is two-fold…to help you understand the career and/or company better and to build an on-going relationship with the contact to introduce you to other contacts, resources or opportunities. Asking the right questions can be the starting point for you to land your first or next job. If you want to learn more about how we prepare college students and grads for informational interviews and getting the job visit Next Great Step.