Jan 15, 2019

How to Prepare for a Programming-Related Informational Interview

If you want to get a programming-focused job in the tech industry but don't know where to start, consider the informational interview. This informal interview style puts the job seeker in the driver's seat to learn more about a field in general, or about a specific job or company. Once you find the right person to talk to, you should conduct the interview in a friendly, low-pressure way while still asking important questions to get the most out of the opportunity. Consider these questions a starting point. Do some more research about the company or position you're interested in so you can ask more detailed and specific questions in addition to these more general queries.

Have you ever been given or seen anyone give bad advice for someone in your position?

This is a bit of a twist on a classic informational interview question, "What advice do you have for people who are considering this work?" Framing the question in terms of bad advice gives the interviewer a chance to think about things from a different angle, which may help him or her think up some really insightful information they might not have provided otherwise.

Are there any local meetups or conferences you attend that might be welcoming to newcomers?

Networking is very important in tech, and meetups and other social events are a great opportunity for you to both practice networking for jobs and meet other people you can talk to for advice. Different programming languages may even have their own communities built up, with Python being one example of a language with a dedicated community around it. Finding out where established professionals actually hang out in order to meet each other can be a really valuable insight into how to get a foot in the door.

What's something people might not know about the company/job?

We often look at the things we want with rose-colored glasses. But it's important to take off the rosy shades and get a real look at what's going on in a company or career path you think you're interested in. The answer to this question isn't necessarily going to be negative. In fact, it might actually be positive, such as a rewarding network of colleagues or the opportunity to volunteer your skills for a good cause. No matter what the answer, it's good to get this kind of insight from someone on the inside.

What soft skills are most important for your job?

Soft skills are an underrated part of tech work. Some people can even focus a bit too much on their skills in job interviews. You can be the most knowledgeable person in the applicant pool, but if you don't have the necessary soft skills, like an affinity for collaboration or the ability to skillfully delegate, you still might not get the job.