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The Best Informational Interview Questions to Ask

informational interview questions

According to the 2019 Benchmarking Industry Report, the average candidate spends 2.8 onsite interview hours before a hire is made. This varies greatly based on role and job level, but in the most cases, 3-4 hours is not a lot of time to get to know someone’s skills, motivation, and aptitude for the job.

That’s why it’s critical to have a plan and all interviewers on the same page around what interview questions they will ask and skills to dig into to make the most of that time. By using the right informational interview questions, you can increase your odds of uncovering candidates’ skills and motivation for any role faster, better, and smarter. Let’s dive in!

What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is an informal conversation you have with candidates for a job. The purpose of the informational interview is to gather the information you need to understand a candidate’s fit for your company and qualifications for the responsibilities of the job. We’ve found that the best informational interviews leverage a combination of behavioral based interview questions, as well as several specific ones to the skills and cultural fit for your company. 

Informational interview best practices

While the informational interview is meant to be an informal conversation, it’s important that you keep them structured and professional. 

Here are a few best practices for managing informational interviews:

  • Dress the part.
    Depending on your company, you may have a more formal or informal dress code. If your company has a more relaxed culture, we still recommend dressing business casual
  • Be respectful of time.
    When you schedule interview times with candidates, do your best to not cancel on candidates, especially on the day of. Ensure all interviewers arrive on time and prepped to host a meaningful conversation. The last thing you want is to frustrate or irritate them by rescheduling their interview with you.
  • Structure the interview.
    Prior to the interview, make sure to have a set agenda for who the candidate will meet with, the interview questions that each member of your team will be responsible for, and where you’ll be meeting with the candidate. At Lever, our customers leverage interview toolkits to streamline their process.
  • Follow up.
    Regardless of whether you’ll be extending a job offer to the candidate, make sure to follow up. No candidate, after putting in all that time and effort to interview, wants to go unnoticed or dismissed after they leave.

Once you’ve prepared and are ready for the informational interview, it’s time to get on with the actual interviewing. Below, you’ll find a list of some of our favorite informational interview questions so you can find the best talent for your open positions.

Informational interview questions

During the informational interview, you’ll want to ask questions that help you uncover a candidate’s past experience, current hard skills, soft skills, and ideal culture. At the very least, you’ll need this information to make the best hiring decision!

Informational interview questions for past experience

During an informational interview, the first goal is to understand their most recent past experience. What did they like most and least, and if a leadership role, what is the working style and will this jive with other managers at your company?

Getting information on a candidate’s background will not only help you see if the existing role is a fit, but also shaped for this individual to reach and exceed their potential during their time there.

  • What were the responsibilities of your current and previous roles. How do you think they have prepared you for our open position?
  • Describe what a day of work looks like in your current position. Do the responsibilities ever change?
  • What do you like most about your current job?
  • What do you like least about your current job?
  • What problems do you typically deal with/manage?
  • Have you ever considered switching industries or careers?

Informational interview questions for hard skills

Hard skills can be defined as teachable and measurable abilities. Think of this as how you will measure their success in the future and assess if able to reach those goals.

  • Describe a project or idea you came up with for your current role. What did you do to complete that project?
  • Tell me about the skills you believe are needed to fulfill the responsibilities of our position. Do you feel you are competent in these areas?
  • What skills for your current job were the hardest for you to learn?
  • Tell me about your experience using [Insert technology or hard skill like programming language, financial language, analysis, etc]. 

Informational interview questions for soft skills

Soft skills are traits that make an individual a good employee, such as their etiquette, communication, and listening. These questions should be good indicators for how well an individual will get along with other employees at your organization.

  • Tell me about a time where you uncovered an issue that you needed to present to your manager. What was the issue? How did you communicate this with your manager?
  • Describe a time where you had to work on a project with multiple departments. What did you do to ensure that you helped everyone complete their respective tasks?
  • Tell me about a time where you had a communication issue with a coworker. Was anything done to resolve this?
  • How do you go about delegating responsibilities to others?
  • How do you go about rearranging your schedule if a work emergency or crisis comes up?
  • Tell me about a time you successfully solved a problem?
  • In what ways have you encouraged your work team to be more creative and innovative?
  • How do you prioritize work if you have multiple looking deadlines?
  • How do you stay motivated at work?

Informational interview questions for culture

It’s important to think as an organization about the talent that you don’t see or have today that you know you’ll need in the future to enhance your company culture, and get to where you’d like to be in the coming years. Assess talent not just on existing culture, but any gaps as well.

  • Describe your ideal work environment.
  • What do you like most and least about your current company culture?
  • Do you think office events (happy hours, retreats, etc) are necessary to achieve a great culture?
  • What would you do if you were assigned a task with skills/experience that you do not currently have?
  • From what you’ve seen and learned about our company, what about our culture resonates most with you?
  • How do you help others at work stay motivated and creative?
  • What do you think are the biggest benefits to having a diverse company?
  • If you have spare time at work, what would you do with that time?

Final thoughts: Informational interview questions

Informational interviews are necessary to get to know your top candidates. During these interviews you’ll learn about their skills and ideal fit for your company. It’s important that during the informational interview, you look at the candidates complete experience and you determine what criteria are most important to be successful at your company. 

To simplify the process at your company, download our Definitive Guide: 101+ Interview Questions to Hire Quality Candidates Faster to streamline your interview process today!