Whether you are targeting a specific role or exploring new industries, research can only get you so far. You may go down the rabbit hole of Google searches and read countless LinkedIn job descriptions – which can be incredibly helpful parts of the process. However, at some point, speaking to people actually doing the work will be invaluable and provide an insider perspective that you can’t get anywhere else. The term “informational interview” sounds formal – but these conversations can be casual networking calls, face-to-face meet-ups, coffee chats, quick touch bases, and more. Simply put, you can consider an informational interview any discussion where you are intentionally asking questions about the other person in order to learn more about an aspect of their career path or job. Situations where they might be especially useful include: Gathering information for career decision-making. Exploring a new industry. Learning more about a particular role. Making a direct connection at a specific company. Preparing for an interview. Deciding whether or not to accept an offer. You can network with virtually anyone of interest for an informational interview—think classmates, alumni, members of professional associations. By identifying your goal for the conversation, you can better prepare to make it a meaningful experience for both parties. Below are some tips for success and potential questions to ask for making the most out of the opportunity. Be curious – express interest in their story. Review their LinkedIn profile and learn about their background beforehand. Most people are flattered to be seen as experts and enjoy sharing their experience with others who are engaged in the content. Be specific – know your why. Which of the above situations (or others) is your objective for this meeting? People want to be helpful but need to know how they can be of most value. Be directive – it is up to you to drive the conversation. You’re the one who requested the call so be prepared with a list of questions to steer the ship. Be grateful – show appreciation for their time. A thank you note is essential. Not only does it demonstrate your gratitude, but it is also an opportunity to follow up with any additional information or next steps you discussed. Informational Interview Questions General Tell me about your career path. What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received? What is something you wish you knew earlier in your career? For making career decisions How did you choose your current career? What other careers/jobs did you consider and why did you rule them out? What is the career trajectory like? For understanding company culture What’s the performance review process? How did your employer handle COVID-19? Describe your relationship with your co-workers. To see if role aligns with your skills, interests, values Can you describe a typical day in your role? What do you like best/least about working for this organization? What skills do you think are most important for success in this role? For networking What’s the best way to explore job opportunities at your organization? Do you belong to any professional associations? Can you recommend any additional people for me to speak with? No matter your objective, informational interviews can be a valuable part of your career exploration and job search tool kit!