An important element of informational interviews is the process of asking questions, but there are also many unwritten social rules to pay attention to. Below are a few ideas to help you plan for your meeting.
Starting the conversation
Take time to settle into the conversation by building rapport with the person you are meeting. Ask them how their day has been, or what they have been focusing on lately. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you and express your appreciation for this opportunity to learn.
Continuing the conversation
Once you and your interviewee are settled and have had the chance to greet each other, begin to ask your prepared questions. Be flexible, you may not have time to get to them all. Ask questions that are going to help you gain the information and insights you are looking for.
Below are some example questions:
- What do you find is most interesting or exciting about your work?
- How has your field (or organization) changed since you started working?
- What trends are impacting your field right now?
- How has COVID-19 impacted your work?
- Where do you predict your field (or work) going in the future?
- What is the work culture like in your industry?
- What does an average week or month look like in your role?
- What would entry-level work in this field look like? How do you advance? What does the typical career path look like?
- What skills do you recommend I develop now so that I can be successful in this field?
- What experiences should I gain now in order to set me up for an entry-level role in your field?
- How does your workplace (or industry) approach equity, diversity and inclusion?
- Are there leaders in your field that come from historically marginalized groups,or that are a person of colour, queer, Indigenous, or another identity?
- Who do you work closely with, or communicate with regularly? Who else would you recommend I talk to?
- What resources (such as websites, industry associations, or organizations) should I research?
- What is the most effective way to stay connected to current events and news particular to your industry?
- Is graduate school necessary to prepare for or advance in this career? If so, which programs do you recommend?
Closing the conversation
Try to be aware of the time. If you notice time is passing quickly and you still have more questions, check-in with your interviewee about their schedule. They might be able to meet again or stay a little longer.
As you approach the end of your meeting, take a moment to thank your interviewee for their time. Let them know what stood out to you about what they shared and ask them if they have advice for what you should do next. This can also be targeted more specifically to your goals. For example, you could ask for tips about how to find a summer job in the field, if they know of any companies that are hiring, or for a recommendation about other people or resources you should connect with.