Informational interviews are risk-free opportunities to learn about and network with a company of interest. If made available to you an informational interview is a great way to learn about a company and begin to develop a relationship that could lead to something later. During the informational interview here are three questions we highly recommend you ask your interviewer to demonstrate your interest in the company, potential fit in the organization, and seriousness about joining.
“Can you tell me about your own career path within the company, and what do you expect to be doing within 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years?” This is a great question to ask during an informational because you are essentially interviewing your interviewer and trying to establish a connection with her. Anytime you identify a common goal or connection, quickly point it out. If you are aiming to parlay an informational into a formal interview for a potential role, highlighting a common interest or similar career path will build a feeling of familiarity. If you find no connection, that’s still OK, it shows your interviewer that you are looking to relate by drawing parallels or at the very least gathering direct intelligence about the company, and that won’t be counted against you.
“I did my research and found that the company expects to [expand, grow, hit an earnings target, etc.] within the next year. Can you tell me about how your department contributes to meeting this goal?” Before conducting the informational interview, it is imperative that you do some research to understand what activities the company may be engaging in in the near future. Clearly, this is best suited for publicly-traded companies where news is readily available, but even privately-held companies showcase news on their websites to give the public (and potential customers) a sense of what is going on. Link the activities you researched to the department your interviewer represents to see if what they are responsible for drives business goals. This shows you want to be where the action is.
“I am very proficient in [financial analysis, client engagement, executive advisory, etc.], how would someone with my skills be able to contribute quickly to your team?” The strategy behind this question is similar to name-dropping. You directly refer to a skill that you have first before asking the question, and your interviewer has no choice but to hear it. It’s not boastful or overtly self-serving if asked in this context; it is clear that if there are open opportunities on the interviewer’s team, the interviewer may wish to say so, and in a sense, you are doing your interviewer a favor by showcasing 1) what you can do to help him and 2) saving time since you are already there, so why not meet more people and see if you’re a fit for the role? Whenever I personally have given an informational interview, had a good conversation and was asked this question, I immediately thought of introducing the person to others in my group. This is a perfect question to end an informational discussion.