Is there a specific company or business you'd like to work for? An informational interview can be a great way of finding out whether the company that seems so cool from the outside is really the kind of place in which you'd want to invest a lot of time and effort. The key to actually getting the correct information, especially if you're interviewing someone you have no personal or social connection to, is asking pointed, detailed questions. These sample questions are a good starting point, but you should always do research prior to your interview and make sure what you ask is tailored to the company itself.
Informational interviews aren't always the place to get incisive, detailed information, but it can't hurt to ask about the hiring process. Just be aware that doing so won't necessarily get you the job. These questions can help clarify things for you:
- What qualities do successful applicants at (company) usually have, regardless of position?
- How did the hiring process work for you?
- Do you have an in-house recruiter or HR that handles hiring or is it usually more departmental?
The responses you get to these questions can help you be more strategic about how you apply for a job at this particular company. You can find out what to emphasize, what to expect, and even how to most effectively network prior to applying. Just be aware, again, that an informational interview is not a guarantee, and things can change rapidly within a company based on policy and personnel shakeups.
So-called "culture fit" is often a big deal for tech companies looking at new hires, and it should matter to you, the job seeker, as well. Your outside impression of a company may not actually measure up to reality. To get a better picture, ask questions like these:
- What makes (company) different from other places you've worked?
- Is there anything about the culture at (company) that most people don't get to see?
- How does (company)'s culture support its business mission?
Make sure you read between the lines of the responses you get about culture. "Fast-paced" can mean that the company doesn't know how to organize or triage properly and every day feels like an emergency. "We have on-site laundry, beer on tap, and ping pong tables" can mean that there's either explicit or implicit pressure on employees to give up any semblance of work/life balance and spend all their time, including evenings and weekends, at work. The best way to find out is to ask careful follow-up questions, like "what time do people typically go home?" or "how does workflow tend to go around release dates?" Be strategic in how you ask these questions so you can get a more candid answer.