Questions to Ask at an Informational Interview

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The following questions are intended to help you build a detailed picture of an occupation and position. Use these informational and functional questions only as a guideline. Your interview will be most effective if you come up with additional questions that reflect your genuine curiosity about the particular career.

28 Occupational Questions to Ask

  1. What is the title of the person you are interviewing?
  2. What are other commonly-used titles for the position?
  3. What are the duties performed during a typical day, week, month, year? Does she or he have a set routine? How much variety is there on a day-to-day basis? As the person describes the duties, ask what skills are needed. 
  4. What educational program is recommended as preparation? Inquire about the distinction between courses which are desirable and those which are indispensable.
  5. What kinds of courses are most valuable in order to gain skills necessary for success in this occupation? Inquire about the distinction between courses which are desirable and those which are indispensable.
  1. What degree or certificate do employers look for?
  2. What kind of work/internship experience would employers look for in a job applicant, and how does a person obtain this experience?
  3. Are any co-curricular activities recommended?
  4. What steps ( besides meeting educational and experiential requirements) are necessary to break into this occupation (e.g., exam, interview, union membership)?
  5. What are the important keywords or buzz words to include in a resume or cover letter when job hunting in the field?
  6. What are the opportunities for advancement, and to what position? Is an advanced degree needed, and if so, in what discipline?
  1. Which skills are most important to acquire (i.e., which skills do employers look for)?
  2. What are the main, or most important, personal characteristics for success in the field?
  3. What are the different settings in which people in this occupation may work (i.e., educational institutions, businesses, non-profits)?
  4. What other kinds of workers frequently interact with this position?
  5. Is there evidence of differential treatment between male and female workers with respect to job duties, pay, and opportunities for advancement?
  1. What are the employment prospects in the advisor’s geographic area? Where are the best employment prospects? What are the employment prospects at the advisor’s company? Is mobility a necessary factor for success?
  2. What are some related occupations?
  3. What are the different salary ranges?
  4. Does the typical worker have a set schedule, or are the hours flexible?
  5. What are the demands and frustrations that typically accompany this type of work?
  6. Is there a typical chain of command in this field?
  7. How can you determine that you have the ability or potential to be successful in this specific occupation?
  1. Is this a rapidly growing field? Is it possible to predict future needs for workers in this field?
  2. What types of technology are used, and how are they used?
  3. Where are job listings found?
  4. What entry-level positions are there in this field that a liberal arts graduate might consider?
  5. What does the advisor know now that would have been helpful to know when she or he was in your shoes?

11 Functional Questions to Ask

  1. How many hours does the advisor work?
  2. What sort of education does the advisor have?
  3. What was the advisor's career path from college to present?
  4. What are the satisfying aspects of the advisor’s work?
  5. What are the greatest pressures, strains, or anxieties in the work?
  6. What are the major job responsibilities?
  7. What are the toughest problems and decisions with which the advisor must cope?
  8. What is most dissatisfying about the work? Is this typical of the field?
  9. How would the advisor describe the atmosphere/culture of the workplace?
  1. Does the advisor think you left out any important questions that would be helpful to learn more about the job or occupation?
  2. Can the advisor suggest others who may be valuable sources for you?