Networking through informational interviews is a great way to meet new people and connect over meaningful conversations. You learn about other people’s stories and how there are numerous paths to success. Everyone’s career trajectory is entirely different and unique.
If you’re a new grad starting out in your career, it might feel daunting to reach out to the manager of your dream company for an informational interview. But it’s the best way to gather real information and learn about the industry, company, or role you’re interested in. You might even hear about potential opportunities that aren’t posted yet. However, you want to remember that the intention of these meetings is to build a genuine connection.
Here are the top five questions to ask to make the most out of informational interviews:
1. Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today?
The goal here is to gather as much information as you can about the other person. You want to learn about their journey and find out how they landed their current position. What tools did they use? What obstacles did they overcome? Don’t be afraid to dive deeper and ask more questions from why they left a previous job to what inspired them to make a bold, life-changing decision.
2. What does your job entail? What are some of your likes, dislikes, and challenges you have to face?
Ask specific questions about the job itself. What is a typical day at work? What aspects of the job do they dislike and what are some of the challenges they deal with? What is the work culture like? Take note of these details from an insider’s perspective, beyond what you can research online. Then see if you can envision yourself working there.
3. What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing your career path?
This is a great question to ask because you want to know if they have any tips, strategies, or practical advice to share. You can even ask about any useful resources they used as a catalyst to their career, such as books, websites, and programs. Ask them to share their experiences with you including any past mistakes and failures. What were some of the lessons they learned along the way? Is there anything they would change?
4. Is there anyone you think I should speak with?
This is how you expand your network — by asking others for introductions. Now that they know a little bit more about you and what you’re looking for, they can connect you with the right people. Make your ask specific, whether it’s connecting for mentorship or with like-minded individuals working in the industry or in a role you’d like to learn more about. If they don’t have anyone to introduce you to right now, they will likely keep you in mind for the future.
5. What are you currently working on and how can I help you?
This is the best question to wrap up the conversation with. You need to remember that you have a lot to offer, regardless of age and experience. Are they currently working on any projects? Find out what they need help with. Then think of who you could connect them with within your network. Don’t discount the little things that you could do, such as offering to share their work with your network online.
Always thank them for their time and stay in touch. When you receive good news down the road, send a quick update as a way to show gratitude for how they were a part of your journey and success.
Reaching out to others for coffee chats (especially strangers) may seem like a lot of work. But if you have the opportunity to connect – make the most of it. Do the research and make a good impression by asking the right questions. Build a relationship with genuine curiosity.