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December 16, 2010

Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview

As an old year ends--a year in which you were perhaps unsatisfied with your job or had trouble even finding a job--it's natural to start thinking about new beginnings.

Are you in your dream career? If not--why not? Perhaps 2011 could be the year that you made steps toward it. Switching careers is never easy, but one first step is easy (it's also a great chance to network): an informational interview with someone who's in the career you want or who's working at your dream employer.

Look to your network, on LinkedIn, for instance--and see if there's someone you can reach out to. And don't be shy about asking--being asked to share knowledge and expertise is very flattering, and most people love to talk about themselves.

I was recently interviewed by the college-age daughter of a friend of a friend; she wanted tips on beginning an editorial career. She asked some smart questions, so I thought I'd share them, along with some suggestions of my own:

  • How did you get started in your career, and what has your career path been?
  • What education or training is most important?
  • What is your average day or week like?
  • What traits make you (or anyone) good for your line of work?
  • What do you love about your work?
  • What frustrates you in your work?
  • What are some common misconceptions about your work?
  • How could someone with my background potentially transition into your career (or company)?
  • Where do you see the industry headed, and how could someone like me prepare for those changes?
  • Do you know anyone else it would be wise for me to talk to?


Informational interviews can be done over the phone--but it can be even better to meet your interviewee and buy him or her a cup of coffee or tea, to give the interview a more personal feeling. (And if you do conduct the interview over the phone, sending a follow-up note to say thanks.)

Do you have any suggestions about informational interviews--or good questions you've asked or been asked? Share them in the comments section, or find me on Twitter to continue the discussion there.

(Get more advice on informational interviewing.)


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Posted by Charles Purdy on December 16, 2010 at 11:43 AM in Job Search , Networking | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


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Great Tip! I had never previously thought of an Informational Interview before. I like the idea of this tip as perspective employees can get a better understanding of the career path to take. I think conducting such and interview as well as taking a career assessment would definitely get an individual pointed in the right direction for a new career.

Posted by: Bobby | Dec 18, 2010 7:23:36 PM

Thank you for this post!

Posted by: John Papers | Dec 20, 2010 2:40:43 AM

i've never really been through an informational interview but in case i ever needed tips, i'll go over this page again.

thanks for the tips.

Posted by: web development | Jan 3, 2011 3:14:22 PM

Although it was several years ago, I did 40 informational interviews in about 30 days. I found out a lot of information about current technology in areas that I didn't have direct experience with.

In one case, I talked to the owner of a Marine Electronics company for over three hours. Then he told me, 'Don't go into this field. The government changed the tax laws and people can't get tax credit for my products. Business is way off.' I would not have know this if I had not talked to this man.

The job I did finally get, I did an informational interview with the Quality Manager even after he told me they had my resume and were going to have me in.

Posted by: Ed Young | Apr 30, 2011 6:55:27 PM

Great article! I transitioned from the military and attended a Transition Assistance Class which covered various types of interviews, but this is my first time hearing of an informational interview. I think this is going to definitely help me as I decide my next career move. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Bobby Lampkin | Sep 3, 2011 1:03:16 AM

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