When you think about a job interview, you probably picture a formal setting. The interviewer is behind their desk and you’re sitting in front ready to answer any questions. That’s the norm.
However, more and more companies are switching to informal interviews. A survey showed that 90% of companies now conduct virtual interviews in the initial stages.
Maybe you’re invited to an informal interview but you have no idea how these go. Well, I’m here to tell you all about it, as well as give you 25 valuable informal interview questions and answers. This way, you’ll know more about the job.
Informal Interview vs Formal Interview
You might be wondering, “What’s an informal interview?” To answer that, I’ll give you a few informal interview vs formal interview comparisons.
While a formal interview is done at a recruiter’s office, an informal interview has a more casual setting. Usually, it’s held in a neutral location, like a cafe, or online via video call. You can already tell that this isn’t anything like a traditional interview.
What’s more, informal interviews are more of a conversation than the common interviewer-asking-questions-and-job-seeker-answering-them. It’ll feel more like an informal chat interview about each other’s careers and the job description itself.
This is why you’ll have a lot of chances to ask questions. Here’s what someone from Reddit says, “Casual interviews tend to be more flexible, allowing for spontaneous questions and discussions.”
Since it’s more on the casual side of things, you can go for a more relaxed attire. However, I still highly advise that you dress neatly and presentably. Remember, you want to make a good first impression (and 55% of first impressions are based on appearance alone).
Another difference is the purpose. A traditional interview is mostly for the recruitment process. A recruiter conducts it to assess your qualifications, experience, and suitability for the specific role.
On the other hand, an informal interview may focus more on getting to know the candidate on a personal level, assessing if they’re a good fit, and gauging interpersonal skills. Here’s what Anupama N from Career Higher says:
Informal interviews enable employers to get a better idea of a candidate’s personality and assess their potential fit within the company. They also allow companies to get to know a candidate without investing significantly in the formal interview process.
It can also be a time to ask informational questions about the industry, company, and job position. You might not necessarily be applying for the job just yet – you can still be in the stages of getting more information about it first.
How to Prepare for an Informal Interview – 25 Valuable Informal Questions and Answers
Since you can’t really know what to expect in an informal interview (and you have a better opportunity to ask informational interview questions), it’s a good idea to prepare questions to ask early on. To help you, here are 25 valuable informal questions and answers.
Questions and answers about the work
Here are 5 informal interview questions and answers you may want to ask about the job itself:
- What does a typical day look like for you? This is important to ask in an informational interview so you can see what the regular day-in-the-life looks like for the person you’re meeting. For answers, you may want to hear the person say that they get a lot of challenging tasks, breaks, feedback, open discussions, or anything you want in a job.
- What is the most challenging part of your job? Of course, you want an answer that has to do with the actual tasks and not that the managers are extremely incompetent or the coworkers are slackers and gossipers.
- What do you enjoy the most about your job? A good answer to this question would be either the people there or the fact that the job has a lot of professional growth. If you like the answers, you might have a bigger interest in the company and working there. In turn, you’ll try harder to get into the role.
- What’s the company culture like? The answer you should be looking for is one of a positive work environment. You don’t want to be offered the job if you find out that the company culture is not the ideal setup, especially for you specifically.
- How flexible is your role? This is how Rachel Pelta from The Forage puts it, “When you ask about flexibility, you aren’t just asking if the job is flexible (though that is part of it). You’re also asking how autonomous the role is or how much discretion you have in how you get things done. For example, if you’re considering a career in mergers and acquisitions, you might have a lot of flexibility in how you gather information, when you work, and deciding if the deal takes place. But on the flip side, once you decide the deal should happen, you may have very little flexibility in terms of the due diligence that has to happen or how long things take because of legal requirements.”
Of course, you can make your questions more direct and relevant to the company or industry you’re applying for. This is also why it’s a good idea to research more about the interviewer, company, and job description. NOTE: Informal interviews usually don’t give you a detailed job description before the interview.
Questions and answers about the industry
In this type of interview, you’ll also want to ask the interviewer about the industry in general. You can ask informal questions such as:
- Is there enough growth in this field for someone with my background and skills? To put it simply, you’ll want the answer to be ‘yes’. This way, you can see this job as a long-term career. It will also prove that there are going to be lots of opportunities to grow.
- Is there an opportunity for self-employment in your field? Let’s say you’re someone who prefers to work on your own in the future. Well, you can ask straight away if this is a possibility in the industry you’re interested in. If yes, then it’s a great opportunity to begin as an employee, and then move on to your dream scenario.
- Are people more likely to enter or leave this profession? As someone who wants to enter the industry, you want the interviewer/interviewee to answer that people are more likely to get into the profession for good reasons. If the answer is that people tend to leave, don’t forget to ask why. Remember, this is an informal and informational interview. You’re asking questions to get as much information as possible.
- Where do you think the industry will change the most in the next five years? For an answer, you’ll want to hear more positive changes than negative ones. Of course, that doesn’t mean there will be no negative changes. It’s a good idea to be able to see both sides. This way, you can picture what the field will look like in the future (and whether it’s a good choice to get into it).
- What developments on the horizon could affect future opportunities? Here’s a detailed question related to this asked by the University of Buffalo School of Management, “I’ve noticed that the state and federal governments have devoted a great deal of funding to the biotech industry in Western New York. What effects have you, as a salesperson for Life Technologies, seen from this extra funding, and how do you anticipate the industry and your company expanding due to this revenue?” Questions like this will help you get valuable information and answers about the industry itself.
With insightful answers from the person you meet, you’ll learn more about the industry that you wouldn’t have known if you didn’t talk to an insider. This will help you gauge the industry, company, or job position and where it is heading.
Questions about money and professional growth
Let’s move on to questions you should ask when it comes to money and professional growth:
- What salary can I expect if I get this job position? No doubt you have a salary range that you need to help provide for all your bills (and a few pleasures as well). Now is the time to see whether the job position fits your salary. If the answer is within your range, then it might be a good position to pursue. If not, then you should first ask if there is any possibility of a salary raise in the future. If not, maybe it’s better to find a new company or position.
- What is the long-term potential? If you’re someone who wants to prosper in your career, you’ll look for every opportunity to advance. This is why this is a crucial question to ask. You want to hear the person mention “promotion”, “career advancement”, and the like.
- How did you get your job? The answer will help you determine how you can get into the same position. The person may go into detail about how they started from an entry-level worker to a high-management role. This will give you an idea of what you need to do to succeed.
- How long does it take for managers to rise to the top? The other person’s experience might be different from the normal. This is why this is a good follow-up question to ask the previous question. If you want a manager role as soon as possible, this will help you plan out your path to get there.
- How and why did you choose this profession? Again, here’s what Rachel Pelta from The Forage says, “Asking how and why someone is in this career can help you figure out if you’ve got the same hows and whys, different hows and whys, or if you need to figure out what how and why looks like to you.”
These kinds of informational questions will help you get a clearer picture of the money and professional growth in the field. This is highly important to help you carve out your career in the most informed way possible.
Questions and answers about skills and experience
Of course, you should expect the interviewer to ask you about relevant skills and work experience. But since it’s a two-way conversation, you can ask them questions about these, too. Here are some questions that will help you know more about the job:
- What qualifications do you seek in a new hire? The answer should be more than skills and experience. You want answers that relate to preferred hard and soft skills, personality, cultural fit, and much more. This way, you can either work on those or show that you already have what the potential employer is looking for.
- What kinds of skills do I need to succeed in the field? If you want to succeed, you need to start gaining the necessary skills to get there. Say you want to become a manager later on. Well, you’ll have to improve yourcommunicationand conflict resolution skills, as well as a lot of other skills. If you want to become a programmer, you’ll have to learn coding terms and software.
- What do you think of the experience I’ve had so far? A study by Harvard Business School showed that 37% of employers rank experience as the most important qualification for job seekers. This is why it’s good to see where the insider says your experience fits in. You can also ask them what types of positions your work experience can qualify you for.
- Which of my skills are strong compared to other job hunters in this field? When you get the answer, you can focus on that strong skill even more to have better chances of landing your dream job over someone else.
- What activities outside of the industry help you on the job? You don’t have to be constantly working to gain relevant experience or skills. You’ll want to find the answers to other activities that aren’t work-related but will help you at work. This can include volunteer work or hobby skills that you can teach yourself.
Yes, it’s very common in a formal (and informal) interview for the recruiter to ask you about your skills and experience. But during an informal one, you can create a more meaningful time by asking your questions about this topic.
Questions about fitting in
You want a workplace where you fit in. So if you want more insight into a company, asking if you would be a good fit is great. These are the types of questions you should ask at an informal interview:
- Considering my background, how well do you think I would fit in this company and/or profession? After discussing a bit about yourself, this is a good question to ask. This way, you can see whether the company or job is suited for you.
- How does your company compare with others we’ve discussed? This will give you valuable insights into why you should choose this company instead of that, or vice versa. Remember, you don’t want to be stuck in a job that doesn’t fit you at all. It will only make you miserable.
- Does the job involve any lifestyle changes? Suppose, for example, you’re a working mom. If you need to be with your child as much as possible, a job that sees you frequently traveling will not be a good fit. When you know the lifestyle changes you have to make, it will make it easier to determine if the job is the perfect fit or not.
- What’s the one thing you wished you had known before you started? When you ask this question, you want the answer to be about the knowledge the interviewee lacked when they started. When you get the answer, you can be more prepared to fit in by gaining that knowledge.
- From all the people you’ve met in the field, what personal attributes are essential for success? Fitting in has a lot to do with your personality. You want the answer to be something that you can relate to. If not, then you can work on that personality trait to succeed in the job position.
When the end of the informal interview process comes, you’ll know all you need to know about the industry, company, or job position. With all your knowledge, you can go ahead and make the right decisions for YOU.
I’ve listed 25 informal interview questions and answers you should ask and expect. Since informal interviews are more about getting to know about the industry, company, and job opening, these questions will be very helpful.