Next Stop: Your Magazine Dream Job

The Best Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview

By Bianca Mendez

The best way to network one-on-one with your admired editors? Asking them to grab a cup of coffee with you, because 1) they’ll be super flattered and 2) it’s a great opportunity to show off your genuine self without the pressures or stuffiness of a formal interview. Now, to really make the most of the 15 minutes with your editor and standout from the crowd, it’s essential to walk in with a list of questions. Not sure what to ask? Here are some conversation starters that will really impress.

What is missing from my résumé?
Don’t be shy about bringing your résumé to your coffee get-together. “This will give the chance for the editor to really look at your résumé and pinpoint exactly what’s needed to make it stronger,” says Brittany Galla, editorial director at Bauer Media Group. “By bringing your résumé, you’re armed with something that the editor can give immediate feedback on. Bring a cover letter, too!”

How long did it take you to get your first job after your internship?
“Every successful editor I know has their own unique path that got them to where they are today,” says Maryn Liles, senior editor at YourTango. “Asking this question can help you realize you’re not alone in your initial job search struggles and that by staying dedicated and involved, you too will get your lucky break eventually.”

What is something I should be doing that I’m not doing?
“I always find that this question brings helpful and unique advice,” says Galla. “Seems like an obvious question, but the editor may be able to give specific examples of who you should be reaching out to, or a site to freelance for, that can make you a good candidate for jobs.”
How did you first hear about your current job opportunity?
You know applying to job boards isn’t enough to snag a job these days. This question will clue you in on how to get creative with your job search. “You might be surprised to hear some of the unorthodox ways people came across these opportunities,” says Liles. “I’ve heard of people getting job connections through press events, friends, and even informational interview contacts!”
What always stands out to you in an interview?
Interviews are your time to shine. And since these editors have had their fair share of interviewing and being interviewed, they’ll know that makes a person stand out for the right reasons. “I prepped for [interviews] by always envisioning myself being the person doing the interview 10 years in the future,” says Galla. “I would think to myself, ‘OK, if I was sitting there at the desk, what would I be looking for? What candidate would impress me? Who would I want to hire?’ It’s good to know what can help you stand out, what types of questions to ask.”
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you were first breaking into the biz?
“This catch-all question is the perfect way to end your informational interview,” says Liles. Who knows, you may learn something new about the industry that you haven’t realized or learn some new tactics about how to score an interview and hopefully down the line, that dream job.
Bianca Mendez is a writer and editor who has contributed to Refinery29, TeenVogue.com, Bustle, and other publications. Her perfect day in NYC consists of trying the latest fitness class followed by a night of wining and dining. Check out more of her work at biancammendez.com, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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