The meeting with the mentor is an informational interview. When asking questions in an informational interview, try to make sure that most of your questions are open-ended. For example, don’t ask “Do you like your job?” because this question can be answered with only one word. Instead, ask “Why do you like your job?” This question will yield a useful answer.
Keep in mind that the more you know about the organization or occupation that your mentor is involved with, the more specific and meaningful your questions will be. Therefore, it is important to research the organization and/or the occupation before visiting your mentor. You will get more out of your interview and maybe even make a good impression on your mentor.
Take your questions with you to the interview and organize the questions in the order of importance to you. This will insure that you remember to ask all of the questions that you intended to ask and that the interview runs smoothly.
When developing your questions think about the purpose of the meeting and what you'd like to know most. Below are sample questions that you can ask to learn more about the occupation and how it suits you. Career Values are important to consider when examining whether an occupation will be satisfying for you. Asking questions that reflect you and your values will also help the mentor to get to know you and perhaps provide the mentor with an opportunity to offer specific advice. The first group of questions below are grouped according to the different career values.
• What gives you a sense of accomplishment in this occupation?
• How often do you get to see the results of your work?
2. SOCIAL INTERACTION
• How much of your job involves interaction with co-workers? the public?
• Is this interaction a requirement of the job?
• Is there a team approach to your work?
• What is the work atmosphere like?
• Do you get to express individuality in your work, or do you follow strict guidelines?
• Do you have leeway in your job to be creative and imaginative in what you do?
• Can you describe your working conditions? Are you indoors or outdoors? Is it noisy or quiet? Are there any environmental work hazards?
• Do you have the chance to relocate? Where could you go?
5. VIRTUE ETHICS
• Under what circumstances can you refuse to do something not in tune with your beliefs?
• Do you ever feel that your ethics are being challenged?
6. FINANCIAL BENEFITS
• What is the typical salary range/starting salary for this occupation?
• Do you receive benefits? What types?
• Are there incentives for upgrading or taking extra courses?
• Are you paid for your overtime hours?
• How much time do you spend working independently?
• Do you have control over how you do things?
• Are you closely supervised?
8. INTELLECTUAL STIMULATION
• What do you find most challenging about your job?
• How much learning and research do you do? Is there a lot of problem solving? What type?
• Does your occupation take full advantage of your capabilities and education?
• Do you have set hours or do they vary?
• Do you get time off? How much holiday time do you have?
• Is there the possibility of being transferred?
• Are you ever on-call?
• Approximately how many hours do you work in an average week?
• Is travel required? How often and to where?
• How much flexibility are you allowed in your job in terms of dress, hours, vacation, or job location?
• Does you job involve supervision? Do you evaluate others in terms of performance?
• Are you involved in setting organizational goals? Do you have any control of the budget?
• How do individuals in this field move into management positions?
• What are the current labour market conditions for this occupation?
• How stable is this job?
• What is the future demand for this occupation?
• What sorts of changes are occurring in this field?
• How long do employees stay with this organization? Why do they typically leave?
12. SOCIAL RECOGNITION
• Do you feel respected as a result of the work you do?
• How is your achievement recognized?
• Is your job performance reviewed on a regular basis? How?
• What social obligations go along with your job?
• Is there a lot of public exposure?
13. SOCIAL SERVICE
• Does your work bring about social change? How?
• Do you feel that you help others?
• How does the community benefit from your work?
• Is there a “typical day” for you?
• What is the most exciting part of your job?
• Do you travel very often?
• Do you have to complete one project before starting another? Do you work on many simultaneously?
Here are more sample questions to ask:
GETTING YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR
• What types of activities did you participate in before entering this occupation? Which were most helpful? When / how did you decide on this career?
• What should I consider before deciding if this is the right career path for me?
• What does this industry look for or find most impressive in potential employees?
• Could you describe a typical entry-level position in this occupational field?
• Are there any professional journals/ career-related literature/ organizations that would help me to learn about this field?
• Can you recommend appropriate volunteer experiences, internships or summer jobs I should consider?
• How do people find out about job openings? Are they advertised? If so, where?
• What coursework have you found most helpful?
• How can I get experience in this field while I am still in school?
• If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently in your preparation for this occupation?
• How important is it to have the “right” degree or courses to have a chance to develop a career like yours today? What are other qualifications are considered important?
• What are some of the “do’s and don’ts” in trying to develop a successful career in your field?
• What are the characteristics of people who usually excel in this field? What personal qualities do you need to succeed?
PROS AND CONS
• What do you like most about your job? What are some of the challenges within this profession?
• Would you choose the same occupation again if you were just starting out? Why or why not?
• Do you have any special words of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?
• If you could change any aspects of your career, what would you change?
• Why did you enter this occupation? Was it all that you had expected it to be?
• What are some of the major stresses in your work? Do you consider this to be a low/ medium/ high stress job?
• Could you outline your primary job responsibilities and indicate the percentage of time that you devote to each?
• Are there any duties that you perform on a regular basis? What are they?
• Have your job duties changed as you have gained more experience?
• What other occupations can you get into with the same background?
• If you had to choose another related occupation, what would it be? Why?
• Are there any other occupations that you would suggest for me to explore as an alternative to this one?
• Can you refer me to any other people inside/outside of this organization? Is there someone else I could contact for more information?
• What experiences (work-related or otherwise) have helped you succeed in your occupation?
• How is your job similar to and/or different from _Occupation X_? (This question can help you to compare related occupations and differentiate the roles of each professional.)