For many students who go through the mentor program, their mentors may be future colleagues or potential employers. Whether this is the case or not, it is important to make a good impression. Here are some tips that will help you to make the most of your interview.

• Research the organization and occupation: The questions presented to the mentor should be well informed. A lot of information about organizations and occupations is readily available at the Career Services and online. The questions asked should indicate that you have done some research in this area already.

• What to wear: The most important thing is to be comfortable at the meeting. However, you should consider the workplace you are entering when you choose an outfit. If your informational interview includes a workplace tour, you should wear appropriate clothing and footwear. If you are using the informational interview to network and would like to make a good impression, then business casual dress may be appropriate. Think about how those in the work place would dress and dress that way (or a little better).
• Your questions: Prepare your questions ahead of time, arrange them in the order that you hope to ask them, and bring them with you to the interview.

• Getting to the interview: Plan to arrive at the interview ten minutes early. If you are at all uncertain about the location, confirm with the mentor and/or ask for travel directions. Bring the mentor’s phone number along with you in case something unexpected happens. If possible, try to scout out the location ahead of time.
• What to bring: Aside from the travel directions, mentor’s phone number, and your list of questions, you should also bring a pen, paper, clipboard, and any helpful notes compiled from your research.

• Introducing yourself: Smile, be yourself, maintain good eye contact and posture, and know that it is normal to be nervous. Mentors will understand that you may be nervous and they are supportive. Remember that the mentors have volunteered to participate in this program; they want to talk to you. If you shake hands before and/or after the interview, make sure it is a sturdy handshake. In addition, don’t forget to thank the mentor for meeting with you.

• During the interview: Stay focused on the mentor’s job and career field. You can share something about yourself, but don’t talk about yourself too much. Try not to take up time asking questions that can be more easily answered by another source. Keep your remarks positive. Never ask for a job - this is not the purpose of an informational interview and it may make the mentor reluctant to see other students. However, you may want to ask if you can stay in contact or possibly even job-shadow. You should also be sensitive to the mentor’s time constraints. Unless something else has been agreed to in advance, the meeting is expected to be an hour or less.

• Thank you note: Immediately after the interview, consider sending a thank you note to the mentor and anyone else who helped you out. Be sure to let them know what was most helpful to you.

Developing Your Questions

When asking questions in an informational interview, try to make sure that most of your questions are open-ended. Instead of asking “Do you like your job?”, ask “What do you like most about your job?” This is likely to yield a more indepth or meaningful answer.
Keep in mind that the more you know about the occupation and organization your mentor is involved with, the more specific or comprehensive your questions will be. Therefore, it is important to research the occupation and the organization before your meeting. This critical step will help you to maximize the interview experience and demonstrate that you've prepared for the meeting. It also shows that you are respectful of the mentor's time and helps you make a good impression.

Take your questions with you to the interview and organize the questions in the order of importance to you. This will ensure that you remember to ask all of the questions that you intended to ask and that the interview runs smoothly. 

Sample Questions

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 also helps the mentor to get to know you and provides he/she with an opportunity to offer you tailored 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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

Job Duties

• 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?

Other Questions

• 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 ___________? (This question can help you compare related occupations and differentiate the roles of professionals within an industry.)

Career Values

Are you trying to determine which occupation, or whether an occupation, is right for you? 
If so, it is important to consider your personal preferences, including your career values. Career values are the needs, rewards, or satisfactions that we derive from or require from our work. They can be thought of as the personal reasons for being motivated to work, or as our unique preferences for job satisfaction. Our career values are closely tied to our innate likes and dislikes, previous experiences, and social and cultural influences. After determining or prioritizing career values, it is easier to formulate sample questions for your mentor meeting, and it will hopefully be easier to make a good career choice.

Career Values:

Achievement The need to get a feeling of success, accomplishment or personal pride from completing a project or task. Achievement-oriented people like to make the most of their talents and abilities. They like to have goals and see the results of their efforts.

Social Interaction A desire to work in a position that provides interaction with co-workers and/or the public. Sharing work, getting support or encouragement from other workers or supervisors, and/or having a feeling that the workplace is a pleasant social environment may also be a part of this value.
Creativity A value associated with work that provides opportunities to be innovative, original, expressive, imaginative, artistic, or creative. The type of creativity can vary and may include involvement in: fine arts, music, design, literature, performing arts, language/ communication arts, or invention.
Environment A desire to work in a physical environment or geographical location that appeals to you. It might involve the immediate physical environment (preference for a modern office or working outdoors), a lifestyle preference (urban or rural), or relocation due to the type of work that you want (oceanography or forestry).

Virtue Ethics  The ethics that you carry with you day to day (morals). A preference for work that provides freedom for one to follow his/her personal virtues, principles, or moral values. For example, as an equal rights advocate, could you work for a company that in its advertising/commercials objectified men or women?

Financial Benefits A value associated with the salary level and benefits (pension, insurance, bonus or incentive plans) that one expects or needs to meet a desired standard of living. Having the opportunity to be financially rewarded for working hard, taking risks, or having initiative/special talents is also part of this value.

Independence A desire to have freedom or control over how your work is done, with little or no supervision. This may involve a preference for working alone, but more importantly it reflects a need to manage yourself, or to do things your own way. In exchange for greater autonomy, it is usually expected that you will assume greater responsibility for job performance.

Intellectual Stimulation A value that indicates a preference for work involving a high degree of mental activity in the form of problem solving, analyzing, researching, or continuous learning. Individuals who are studious, curious, questioning, logical, theoretical, or philosophical usually seek work that is intellectually stimulating.

Lifestyle A desire to have a career that leaves you with time and energy to devote to non-work activities such as family and social life, recreation, personal development, or community/volunteer involvement. This value represents a desire to have a balance or a boundary between the work and non-work elements of life.

Management/Leadership A value associated with leadership and authority over others; being responsible for ensuring that the work of the organization is completed satisfactorily; directing and evaluating the performance of others. Decision-making, problem solving, and planning are usually associated with the supervisory or managerial function.

Security A preference for work that is normally in steady demand, or is unlikely to be affected by economic changes, or which will likely be in high demand in the future. This value may also reflect the desire to work at a structured or well-defined job requiring systematic, organized, and precise work habits.

Social Recognition A value associated with work that gives one status, prestige, respect, or social approval. This recognition may be based on a prevailing social opinion that the work is considered important in our society, or on the workers’ personal feeling that his/her work is respectable or worthwhile.

Social Service A value present in work that allows one to help or to provide service to others in some way. The help may be offered to individuals or groups, and it may be provided directly or indirectly to those being helped. Teaching, social work, religious service, childcare, and nursing are some examples of social service careers.

Variety A value associated with work that is frequently changing and different. Change may result from doing different tasks or dealing with different people. This value may also be satisfied through work involving travel, excitement, adventure, risk, or danger.