What to Ask in an Informational Interview

Congratulations! You’ve decided to go for a non-clinical career and you’re in the process of connecting with other PTs—ones who’ve launched successful careers outside of the clinic. One of the best things you can do is chat directly with your career spirit animal! But you might find yourself wondering what to ask in an informational interview.

What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is a semi-formal conversation with a professional, where you ask that person questions to get a deeper understanding of what they do professionally.

Some of the reasons why you would line up informational interviews include:

  • You are exploring new career paths.
  • You are actively pursuing a similar career path and want guidance.
  • You are networking and hoping to find gain insight as to what traits are valued in a particular role or organization.

How do I land an informational interview?

Great question! Don’t be shy. Search online, using sites such as LinkedIn, and reach out directly.

What should I ask in an informational interview?

All of the above are perfectly acceptable reasons to request an informational interview. Remember, when you are networking as an “in” to a company, people can tell immediately. Be extremely respectful and frame your questions with care.

The general rule of thumb is to keep somebody no longer than 30 minutes on the phone.

If they happen to live near you, you can offer to take them out to a meal to pick their brain, but be prepared to pay, and don’t go offering to take them to Wendy’s–pick a nice establishment to thank them for their time.

Something to keep in mind when you’re chatting with someone:

Be genuinely interested in them. Don’t feign it. Open the conversation with questions about them, their background, and why they wound up pursuing a new path. Then you can get to the nitty gritty questions of how you can take a similar path!

Something else to keep in mind—this list of questions reads like a checklist, and if you approach a person like a project to be completed, they’ll be able to tell.

Very rarely will you follow a list like this, all formalized and awkward. Be natural. Read this list several times before your call, then have an organic conversation where you try to work these questions in naturally!

Here’s what to ask in an informational interview when you’re looking to pursue a non-clinical career:

  1. Can you tell me a bit about your background? (How long were you a practicing clinician before making the switch? What types of clinical practice did you do?)
  2. At what point in your career—and why—did you decide to use your PT degree in another way?
  3. Did you know exactly what you wanted to do when you were ready to make the switch?
  4. How did this particular role open up for you? Did your background as a PT play a role?
  5. Did you work with a recruiter to obtain this role? Use a job board? LinkedIn?
  6. Do many former clinicians move into roles like yours? Or are you unique with your clinical background?
  7. What is a typical day like for you?
  8. What are the duties and responsibilities of your job?
  9. What kinds of conflicts do you deal with, and what types of decisions do you make?
  10. Are there busy and slow times, or is the workflow fairly constant?
  11. What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?
  12. What qualities, skills, or talents do you feel make someone successful in this role?
  13. Are there any courses, classes, or con-ed that have proved to be valuable to you in your work? What would you recommend for me as I make the switch from clinician to a role like yours?
  14. What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?
  15. Is there flexibility as far as work hours, or working offsite?
  16. If your job progresses as you like, what would be the next step in your career?
  17. What obligations does your employer place have on you outside of the ordinary work week? Are there evening meetings, special organizations to join, or travel involved?
  18. How has your job affected your lifestyle?
  19. (make this question optional) What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field? Is there a salary ceiling?
  20. What’s the best advice you’d give to someone interested in moving into this non-clinical role?

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