Hadas Kotek » Informational interview questions
Informational interview questions
This post is part of a longer blog post about informational interviews, created for ease of saving and printing.
As part of a careers for linguists workshop I’ve been teaching, we have developed a long set of questions I will reproduce below. We tweak the questions and pick just a subset every time we host an external speaker, to match the speaker’s background and experience. I’ve organized these questions by topic for readability.
A useful conversation starter: Tell me about yourself and what you do
Questions about skills
- What skill(s) do you use most often in your (current or previous) job?
- What kinds of knowledge/skills from your linguistic/academic training do you find useful in your job?
- Are there specific skills you expect a new hire can learn on the job vs skills they definitely need to have before they apply for jobs in your area?
- How can teaching skills (and the love for teaching) be used in industry?
Questions about the day-to-day in the job
- What does a typical week in your job look like? How much time do you spend in meetings? How much focus time do you get for core tasks?
- What tasks do you do?
- Whom do you talk to/report to on a regular basis?
- How collaborative is your job?
- What do you appreciate about your job and what do you wish could be different?
- If your position is a research one, do you think that your results are also meaningful “for the theory” or only for practical implementation?
- Do your responsibilities include publishing? Is maintaining an academic presence a part of your job and/or is encouraged/supported by your employer?
- What was the most surprising or unexpected thing about transitioning out of academia?
- How do you feel about your workload and work-life balance in your company?
- How has the remote / in-person landscape changed during covid?
Questions about prepping
- What do you suggest a student focus on if they have 2-3 more years in their program? What if they only have a few months or need to apply now?
- (Tailored version of the above:) I have [X amount of time] to devote to prepping. What would you suggest I spend my time on?
- If you could go back to your grad school days, what would you change about it?
- Do you have any advice on networking?
- Any resume advice? How do you approach making your academic projects and skills clear and relevant for your non-academic role?
- (Tailored version of the above:) I have done project XYZ, how do I best portray it in applications/resumes to convey the relevant content to a potential employer?
- (Where relevant:) Do I need to have a portfolio (e.g. for UX design jobs)? Can you point me to examples online that you like?
- Do you have a favorite resource for learning X?
Questions about applications and interviews
- How did you find the jobs you applied for? Where did you look?
- When do you recommend someone start applying for jobs in your field? How much time ahead of when they want to start the job should they start looking?
- What was the process that landed you your first job like?
- How long did it take? How many jobs did you apply for? Did you apply all over or strategically? Did you have a referral?
- What was the interview process for your first/most recent job like?
- What was the timeline like? Was there a technical component? Thinking back, what do you wish you knew at the time but didn’t?
- What did you do well in your initial job search and what would you have done differently?
Questions for anyone involved in hiring
- What do you hire linguists/[insert your specialty here] for?
- What are the main things that are important for you to see in an interview?
- What is one thing you wish candidates knew?
- What are common mistakes you see candidates make?
- Does anybody look at your coursework when you apply?
- How do you approach a candidate’s materials? How long do you typically spend on them? Do you click on any links in a resume? Do you do an additional online search?
Questions about immigration
- If you were/are an international person or if you hire such people, can you tell me about the immigration process as it relates to your job or field?
- How long did it take to you get a visa? Was it guaranteed? Did you use OPT or CPT? Does the company sponsor everything?
- Which companies are likely to support visa applications? How does planning/applying change under these circumstances?
- Does it make sense to apply for jobs not at FAANG companies if you’re international?
Questions about career growth
- Do you think your previous job(s) determine your path?
- How easy would it be to change directions if you wanted to, and how would you do that?
- Do you have a sense for what your next job or position might be?
- How do you know when is a good time to look for your next job?
- Are you focused on promotion or developing skills or getting into management or getting established in your current role or something else?
Questions about leaves and disability
- What does maternity/family support look like at your company?
- How are disabilities treated at your company/in your industry?
Questions about compensation
- How much would you expect a linguist/[insert your specialty here] on their first job to make in your field? (a range is fine.)
- What benefits or other components should they negotiate for or look for in their offer?
- Do you have advice for negotiating a first offer?
- Are there deal breakers for you in negotiations?
A useful conversation ender: do you know anyone else [with relevant skills, title, background, etc.] who you could connect me with?