Tips for Informational Interviewing

Congratulations on making such a smart career decision. Interviewing professionals in your potential career path is one of the best ways to learn about your possible future and make valuable connections. Remember that the people you are reaching out to are friendly! They want to help. So, while this process can be stressful, enjoy the fact that you have people who are lining up who want to see you succeed. Understand that not ALL jobs in this field will be like THIS exact job/company /environment. Try not to over-generalize and make rash decisions based on just this experience.

This is an educational experience, not an interview, job or internship. It is unlikely that your matched IT professional will know specific job openings, so please do not ask him/her for a job or a referral to someone else in their firm for a job or internship. However, this highly valuable experience is an opportunity to gain advice.

So how can you make the best out of your shadowing experience?

1. Research

Preparation is the key to gaining the most benefit out of your shadowing experience. Researching the company your IT professional works for is the first step in your path to a successful day at the office. The company website will be the primary source of information. Consider researching the following:

  • The type of product or service the company sells
  • Who owns and operates the company (Is the company public or private?)
  • The company history
  • Current news or strategic actions the company is implementing

Any information that may be provided on the company website with regards to your matched IT professional will obviously also come in handy. Your school’s career center site has resources as well.

Also review the IT Professional’s LinkedIn url. This may help you understand their background and even come up with good questions. Only request to connect on LinkedIn after the interview has taken place.

2. Prepare questions

Develop several pointed and specific questions for your matched professional. Remember that this is not only an opportunity for you to learn about IT, but also an opportunity for the professional and the company to learn about you. Also, brainstorm and anticipate possible questions the professional may ask you. Your educated and well-thought-out responses will impress. Examples of questions to ask:

What Work is Like (Basic questions on which you can elaborate):

  1. Would you say today is like a typical day?
  2. What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis? (technical and non-technical)
  3. What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
  4. What do you like best about your job?
  5. Are there seasons of the year are toughest in your job? Why?
  6. How would you describe the corporate culture? …i.e. Is it more collaborative or competitive?

State of the Industry

  1. How has COVID changed what you and your company does and how you do your work?
  2. What developments on the horizon could affect future opportunities for your company?
  3. This industry has grown dramatically in the last several years. What has the response been from your company to rapid changes? Where do you think the changes will happen in the next five years?
  4. Who are the most important companies or people in this industry today?
  5. Are there professional organizations you have found valuable? (you can also ask about associations they belong to you noticed on their LinkedIn)
  6. You can get even more specific, i.e. What percentage of your clients are outside of the WNY area and if none, are there future plans to develop a market outside the area to support growth?

Skills and Experience (Above and beyond what you can see from their LinkedIn)

  1. Since technology changes so often, how do you make sure you keep current with the most up-to-date languages, software, procedures, etc.?
  2. What educational preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to work in this field?
  3. What qualifications do you seek in a new hire?
  4. How do most people enter this profession?
  5. I read through some of the job descriptions on the HR section of your website in preparation for my visit today. Most jobs I’d be interested in listed Java programming, teamwork, project management and client management skills as necessities. Can you tell me how those skills are used in this profession? Also, what other skills do managers look for that are not written in the typical job descriptions?
  6. What advice do you have for someone like me (i.e. junior in computer science) who is considering entering this field?

Lastly, at the end, be very appreciative and consider asking, “Now that you have an idea of what I would like to learn more about, is there someone else with whom you think I should be connecting?”

3. Say thanks

Finally, it is essential to send thank-you notes or emails. This quick and kind gesture will forever be remembered and help secure yourself a place in your assigned professional’s network of business contacts.

Good luck in your shadowing experience!