Setting up an informational interview with a Self-Driving Car Engineer or other professional in the robotics field is your opportunity to learn more about your career of choice, develop a network of contacts, and make more informed decisions about the company or companies you're applying to.
Unlike with a job interview, you're in the driver's seat during an informational interview, so you're in charge of leading the conversation. Prepare ahead of time by writing down your questions, but be flexible as well. The person you're interviewing may have valuable information to share that you haven't thought of.
Remember to listen. Practice the art of being thoughtfully engaged in what the other person is saying instead of preparing to ask your next question or finishing their sentences for them. Use these 15 informational interview questions to get you started:
1. In what ways does your company currently apply robotics technologies, and what are its plans for the future?
2. Does your company offer incentives to employees for keeping up with the latest technology, such as tuition assistance, workshops, bonuses, or salary increases for coursework or certifications, and so on?
3. What is your company's track record on promoting from within? If I come into your company in an entry-level robotics position, what are the chances that I'll have opportunities to advance to higher-level positions?
4. What are the different robotics positions your company has?
5. What are the most important technical skills your company values in its employees?
6. What does your typical day look like?
7. What do you like most about your job, and what are the most challenging parts for you?
8. What path did you take to work in the robotics field, and what keeps you in it?
9. What advice do you have for someone with my background who wants to progress in the field of robotics?
10. Are there any professional organizations, networking groups, trade journals, webinars, or annual conferences in the robotics field you can recommend for my professional development?
11. I read that the average salary for a robotics software engineer is X. How does that compare to what I might expect to earn with this company?
12. What are the personal attributes, skills, and abilities that you think are essential for a person to have to be successful at this company/in robotics?
13. How do you recommend I keep my skills up to date?
14. If you could give yourself advice before starting a career in robotics, what would it be?
15. Who do you recommend I talk to in order to learn more about the field of robotics, or about this company?
Bonus tip: Be sure to research your person and the company ahead of time so your questions can be more productive and the conversation more meaningful for both of you. If you can find the answer to your question with a Google search or on the company's website, it's a question you can leave off the list.