Posted by: Dan | August 15, 2012

Informational Interviews – Getting the Inside Scoop (Part 2)

In Part 1, you learned the basics about informational interviews.  Now, you’ll learn about what to prepare beforehand, and what to ask during the interview.  Be yourself and stay relaxed during the interview. If you’re intimidated, it may make for an awkward conversation.  Best way to feel comfortable – have multiple interviews with different people.

What to Prepare

  1. Work History.  Help the interviewer understand which roles at the company would be a good fit for you. Be prepared to briefly summarize your military experience. Logically explain how your experience can translate to roles that you’re interested in.
  2. Company Interest.  Explain why you’re interested in that particular company (e.g., culture, reputation, growth opportunities, etc).  Highlight a few key aspects that you learned from the company website. What has the company done recently? Show that you did your homework and know the firm. Here are a few sites to help with research:
  1. Know Your Goals.  Have a purpose for the interview – what do you want to achieve and why? Will the company help you achieve your goals? Be prepared to explain your goals and indicate which positions within the firm are most closely aligned with your goals, skills, and interests.


 The following are examples of questions that you can ask the interviewer. You don’t need to ask all of them, and you may ask questions that aren’t on the list. The interview is an informal discussion, not an interrogation. Ensure that the conversation is relaxed and not forced. Guide the conversation to ensure you cover the points you’re interested in. Take notes! You won’t remember everything from the discussion. If you can’t cover everything in 30 minutes, ask to follow up and setup the next meeting during the conversation.

  1. How closely does your educational background align with your role?
  2. What is a typical career progression?
  3. What’s a typical day like in your role? How much time do you spend working with others? How much time do you spend working alone?
  4. What are some of the best aspects of your job? What are some aspects about the job that you dislike?
  5. What types of challenges do you face?
  6. Are there lateral mobility opportunities? How difficult is it to transition into other roles within the firm?
  7. Are there other careers that are related to your job?
  8. What is your boss’ role like? Can you remain in a technician’s role, or do you have to promote to a supervisory role?
  9. How long does it typically take to promote from your role to the next higher one?
  10. Are there specific courses I should take to prepare me for this role? Do I need a particular bachelor’s or master’s degree?
  11. Are there any other prerequisites (eg. certifications) for jobs in this field?
  12. Do you recommend any trade journals, magazines, or websites?
  13. Could I start in a role similar to yours, or would I need to start in an entry-level role?
  14. What is the demand for people in this field?
  15. Can you provide me with additional contacts, so I can learn different perspectives about this type of role?
  16. What is the salary range for this position and opportunities for salary adjustments?
  17. What is the timeline for promotion?
  18. What benefits does this firm provide (eg. vacation, 401k, tuition assistance)?


You should seek multiple perspectives for the same role. One person could really enjoy or dislike their job. The more people you speak with, the greater the likelihood that you’ll form an accurate picture of the company and role.

After each informational interview, send a thank-you note or an email. Highlight a few of the details that you really found helpful. Keep this contact in a database or connect with them on LinkedIn. You should follow-up with them periodically, especially if you decide you want to work in a similar role.

Please send any questions and comments to

© 2012 SwitchStarter, LLC



  1. […] Companies leave cultural clues on websites, advertisements, and social media.  Some firms have programs for veterans: if so, connect with those vets and set up an informational interview. […]

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