VIDEO: 6 Questions To Ask In An Informational Interview | InYour20s.com by Bessy Tam

VIDEO: 6 Questions To Ask In An Informational Interview

Published on 24 April 2019 by Bessy Tam | Filed in Career

Informational Interviews are important is because you want to use this opportunity to not only get a foot in the door to understand more about what the company culture is like, what products they are using, what kind of candidate that they want, but also for them to get to know you a little bit more.

Informational Interviews will also save you months, even years of agony working in a company and role you didn't actually want. It was also save you hours of useless research online by allowing you to learn exactly what the company and team is looking for.

Transcript:

Hi, this is Bessy Tam from InYour20s.com, a career platform and coaching service to help you get into tech. So today I will talk a bit more about the 5 or 6 questions that you can ask in an informational interview.

So What is an Informational Interview?

It's not an official interview that you have with the company, but a conversation that you can have with someone who's on the team or even the hiring manager of the desired position that you're going to go for in this company.

Now, the objective of this chat or sometimes I would say coffee chat is for you to learn a little bit more about what they mean, but also for them to get to know you a little bit more as a friend or acquaintance in a casual setting before you even go into the formal process.

The reason why this is really important is because you want to use this opportunity to not only get a foot in the door to understand more about what the company culture is like, what products they are using, what kind of candidate that they want, but also for them to get to know you a little bit more.

We all know that a tech company really values referrals and there's always a finite amount of, of referrals that a friend of yours, let's say in Facebook or in Google can refer you, right?

So informational chats will allow you to get into the process or get in front of the teammates without really wasting your referral or application. And then once you know it's a good fit and understand what the team wants, then you can maybe get a higher chance to get into the team or the company through the formal process.

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The Reason Why this is Really Important

The reason why this is really important is because you want to use this opportunity to not only get a foot in the door to understand more about what the company culture is like, what products they are using, what kind of candidate that they want, but also for them to get to know you a little bit more.

We all know that a tech company really values referrals and there's always a finite amount of, of referrals that a friend of yours, let's say in Facebook or in Google can refer you, right?

So informational chats will allow you to get into the process or get in front of the teammates without really wasting your referral or application. And then once you know it's a good fit and understand what the team wants, then you can maybe get a higher chance to get into the team or the company through the formal process.

So I have a little story to tell you before I jump into the questions to ask in the informational interview itself.

Informational interviews are actually the way that I got all of my jobs after my very first job.

And from what I know out in the market, the best career navigators and the most successful people actually don't really apply. They don't apply after the first job that they have in the market because no matter what it is, it's all about the networking and the people that you know.

So, instead of going through the route that everyone else goes through, search online, to find the right jobs, to find the right company and just apply and be amongst a thousand people, they would actually talk to find a way to talk to the right teammates, right people to understand more and then cut the line. And that's what informational interviews are here to help you for.

So that happened to me, especially when I was interviewing for a digital marketing position that was managing  the Asia Pacific region, which is a huge deal. That's 7 different countries I would have managed! Also when I actually moved to Google Chicago for this role that I'm doing right now.

And, just a disclaimer, you know, everything was video is based off of my own opinion, not of my companies, but I, I'm really passionate about helping people because I know how much informational interviews actually helped me.

"And for both of those jobs that I got offers for, I was fighting against candidates that were both internal and external of about 50 to 100 of them!"

So before I got into Google Chicago, or before I got the offer for the first job, I actually did informational interviews with probably 4 or 5 people on the team to understand more about what they want. And for both of those jobs that I got offers for, I was fighting against candidates that were both internal and external of about 50 to 100 of them!

If you think about it, I moved from Hong Kong to Chicago. There were other US candidates that were here for this job, ready to start! Instead, I got it and my manager had to wait 4 months for me to arrive to the US just because I have the exact skillsets and I built the rapport to showcase what I can do for them and for their business.

The 5 Different Questions that you can ask during informational interviews

So without further ado, I'm going to teach you 5 or 6 different questions that you can ask during the informational interview to really understand the wider landscape and questions of the team. 

Introduce Yourself

So first of all, you're going to introduce yourself. This is super important and you have to approach it the same way that you would approach an interview. My general rule is each introduction should only be 30 seconds to a minute. I've interviewed people before myself and I've seen some very terrible, introductions. Some even went over 40 minutes, which is crazy.

So what you want to do is say, Hey, I'm Bessy Tam. I'm currently an account manager at Google Chicago. I specialize in x, Y, z. So I would say, um, measurement as well as brand marketing for large companies in the hotel and retail space. 

And then you can break down exactly what you do. Um, I currently work on such such such projects. Then you talk about, what you're looking for. So I, I'm looking to take my skill sets on a wider level, um, and focus on a large client and help grow the business. Um, I truly think that Google has a great fit and I'd be able to apply my sales, marketing as well as measurements, product experiences to the team. 

So essentially by the end of it, you want to focus on the role and what you're going for so that you can showcase how you can help them instead of just focusing on yourself.

Question 1: "What is Your Ideal Candidate Like For This Role?"

So the first question you could ask is, um, what is, what is your ideal candidate like for this role? So assuming that you have a role in mind that you're going to talk about for this informational interview, this is a question that you guys can to the different teammates in the company, in that specific team for that role. 

Don't ask someone else who is outside of that role, just so you can understand more about the specific qualities that they're looking for or skillsets. The reason why this is important is because they'll probably list out three or four qualities that they want. 

For example, when I went for the previous role that I got an offer for that regional, they were saying that they needed someone with a very broad digital background, they needed someone who had ecommerce experience and then they also talked about, someone who, who can collaborate really well and influence others both on the c level as well as on a day to day level.

So during the informational interview, if they say that, then you marked down those three qualities and then you can explain to them, "oh, that's great. I'm glad you're looking for someone who has global experience. And also e-commerce. I actually happened to have those experiences. For example, my previous client was x, Y, Z and I helped them grow the ecommerce websites, revenue from this number to this number through search marketing, Facebook marketing as well as video advertisement overall." 

It's like a game of tennis, you want to be able to hit the ball back to their court after they tell you what they wanted so that you can kind of keep it a conversation and instead of them just talking the whole time. 

Question 2: "What is the Team Dynamic Like Within the Team? What Other Teams Do You Work With?

Second question you can ask is, what is the team dynamics like within the team and what other teams do you work with?

So the reason why you want to ask this is because you can follow up with specific questions later on. What is the working styles of the teams? How does your role different from others in various countries? What is the different working models between different groups and then most importantly, the last question you should follow up on is how does this specific role ladder up to your success and various teams' successes.

The reason why is you want to be able to pinpoint how this role fits into the larger picture of the different team dynamics and understand in a social ladder or influential setting, how important and how, how this role can solve their business challenges and collaborate well with others.

"So this is a very important question I asked when I talked to both of the offers that I got and is exactly the reason why I didn't take the first offer"

So this is a very important question I asked when I talked to both of the offers that I got and is exactly the reason why I didn't take the first offer was because I understood that the digital, the regional role didn't have as much power as or as much, um, decision making power the as I wanted to have in order to make the projects I had in mind happen for the countries.

So these are little things that you can ask to understand more about their dynamics and how you can influence in this role.

Question 3: "What Is Your Current Business Challenge?"

Then of course, the third question you can ask is what is your current business challenge? 

The reason why you want to understand this is you want to showcase that you're here to think about the business as a whole. You're here to understand them holistically and not only just go for the role by itself. 

For example, if the business challenge is something that is very specific and you feel like you cannot make an impact or is very hard to change, then it might not be the right thing. So, for example, if you're going for a company that is clearly dying like a Blockbuster or something and you understand that their business challenge is the industry is changing, then your follow-up questions would be, are there new products that are, you are trying to launch for or how are you solving these issues?

On the other hand, if you think that the business challenge is actually very interesting and something you can solve for you can talk about your experiences doing the same thing. 

For example, you can say that I have a similar experiences solving your business challenge of growing an e-commerce platform. And then you can talk about your experiences, um, and match it back to them the same way you did in the previous question. 

Question 4: "What Do You Think Are the biggest opportunities for the business?"

Next question. The fourth question would be, what do you think are the biggest opportunities for the business?

The fun thing about this question is they'll probably identify 2 or 3 biggest opportunities, and you can kind of understand how your position or your experiences can help accelerate those opportunities.

You can even ask follow up questions that would include how are different teams contributing to these opportunities. "Are there specific roles or a specialization within the team that helps ladder up to these opportunities?"

For example, when I did the informational interviews for this role in Chicago, I understood that they wanted different teammates to have products specializations and what they were lacking with someone who had measurement experience. And therefore I could say, "Oh, that's great!  I've actually done something that's similar to that opportunity. Would you want me to share more about it?" Actually, don't even ask them. Just tell them I've accomplished something like that before in x, Y, z experience in the past. And in the end, the result was this. It was awesome."

That's one way you can hit the tennis ball back to their side

Or there's a 2nd way to do so saying, "Hey, actually I have some ideas about those opportunities! Here are a few things that I was thinking about when I was looking at and doing some research on your business and the company."

So by pitching your ideas you can be more proactive and showcase sort of a plan that you're thinking about to make sure that they understand that you're really forward looking and you're trying to here to help solve their business problems. 

In the end, an employee is there to help solve business problems. Just the same way as the company is, is solving the individual's problems by giving them a job, right? And giving them something to really interesting to work on in these tech companies. 

Question 5: "Based On What You Know About My Experiences, Is there anything you think is missing where I can fill the gaps?"

And then five, I think this is super important question to ask. A lot of people are hesitant to ask this in other companies. For traditional companies I would say aren't necessarily as open to this specific question.

But then in tech companies, I would say completely go for this because tech companies want to know that you are very willing to learn. 

So the question would be, based on what you know about my experiences, is there anything you think is missing where I can fill the gaps? So this showcases that you are very aware of what you have and that there's always improvements for you to grow and that you're essentially open to feedback because tech companies love it when their employees are in a great team environment that can ask for feedback and continue to grow. 

So if they identify with those specific traits, then you can hit the ball back to them and say, that's great to know. Thank you for the feedback. I actually thought of the same thing before and I've signed up for this certification to get that product knowledge or I've actually done this, this, this, and these projects and plan to grow those skillsets in the company if I were a teammate of yours or if I were to go through all the interview processes to grow in this, these three steps. 

So it shows that you're very proactive but also willing to grow. And it just shows that you're laid back and not necessarily defensive or frantic about your position in the job market

So it shows that you're very proactive but also willing to grow. And it just shows that you're laid back and not necessarily defensive or frantic about your position in the job market, that you're a very secure person and it's always nice to talk to someone in that way in an informational interview especially to give a good perception or understanding. 

Question 6: "Are there Other people within the team or within the company who have similar roles that I can talk to?"

And lastly, what you want to get out of the informational chat is to get more chats. So by the end of it, once the 20 or 30 minutes is done and you have good notes, you can say, you know, is there anything more that we're missing or we should chat about? Then you can also say, most importantly is there, are there other people within the team or within the company who have similar roles that I can talk to, to understand more about the specific role that I'm looking for or that we're talking about here?

The reason why is because you want to be able to get a holistic understanding. Informational interviews are only one-sided as long as you only have one person. So ideally you would have three to four people that you chat with on that team or in a similar role to understand.

So one of the things that I made a decision on with the other offer that I got for the regional role was I asked actually for someone who had a similar title for me to chat with. And that particular person who was managing the European market. I talked to her and understood what she was doing on a day-to-day basis. What was her role like? How does her role ladder up to the wider team business challenges as well as opportunities? And therefore, I can visualize exactly whether I want it to be in her, his or her shoes, you know, for this specific role that I was applying for.

And I eventually understood that I did not want that. And it gives you a clearer picture instead of jumping into the company and deciding that, "Oh my gosh, this is like not exactly what I wanted. I need to find a job again." And that's just very, very stressful for you. 

Conclusion

So I hope this was really helpful!

Please comment below what specific questions you have asked in in informational interviews or any questions that you have for me. I always read the comments. 

Otherwise, feel free to jump to inyour20s.com to subscribe and get my free 7-day email course. Then I can walk you through more tips and tricks such as: Resume Revamp worksheets, interview questions that are mostly asked in tech interviews, as well as a career exploration worksheet that you can understand more about whether tech is right for you, so make sure you go to InYour20s.com or comment below.

I always look forward to seeing you guys in the following video!

About the Author

Bessy Tam is a career coach who helps marketers get into tech. She’s helped dozens of clients get interviews and offers from companies such as Google, Lyft, Amazon, and Mckinsey. She currently works at Google.

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