27 Questions You Could Ask During Informational Interviews

Informational interviews is a subject Sports Business Chronicle first explored last month, as we explained what they are, how to obtain them, their ins and outs and most importantly, what they can do for your career.

But after you land a 25-minute conversation with an industry professional, what are the types of questions you could potentially ask? After being on both ends of the informational interview throughout the past five years, I’ve noticed a growing trend of students frankly not asking the right questions. Arguably more frustrating is a majority of students don’t ask specific questions nor do they do the basic 10 to 15 minutes of research on the industry professional (Google, Linkedin and Twitter are your best friends here).

Below are 27 questions you could consider asking during your next informational interview. The questions aren’t meant to be read verbatim like a robot, but rather, generate more creative thinking for the conversation versus the usual, what advice can you provide to me about working in sports? It’s similar to operating like a reporter in a way: the better the question, the better the answer (at least that’s the hope).

Also, at the bottom of every career article will be five paid/for-credit internships to check out.

And finally, if you follow the Career tab on the Sports Business Chronicle website, you’ll find more career and advice-oriented articles as we head into 2018.

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1) I’m overwhelmed at everything needed to break into the sports business industry — worthwhile internships, constant networking, attending conferences, going to class, getting good grades, etc. What are one or two concrete actions you would suggest taking in the next 30 days to get started?

2) What is the biggest failure you’ve had in your career, and what learnings did you take from it?

3) I noticed you attended law school but don’t currently practice law. How did you decide on attending law school versus earning an MBA or a Master’s? What specifically attracted you to the legal route?

4) How would you evaluate whether to intern with a big brand/team/league and maybe have less responsibility but it looks great on a resume versus interning with a lower-tier or unknown organization/team/brand and yet, having more responsibility and touching various parts of an organization?

5) Why didn’t you major in sports management, yet ultimately, you said you wanted to work in sports?

6) So far, I’ve looked at TeamWork Online, Work In Sports, Linkedin and Indeed for job/internship opportunities. When you were first breaking in, were there any other resources you utilized to broaden your search?

7) Why did you obtain a Master’s in sports management versus a MBA?

8) I’m thinking of switching from being a social science major to a sports management major. From looking at your Linkedin, I noticed you did something similar in your career. How did you navigate that transition, and what factors ultimately led to you making that decision?

9) I’ve heard Twitter is a great resource/platform for me, but I’m unsure how to effectively utilize the social channel. I notice you’ve had an account for eight years and are fairly active. How have you leveraged the platform for your own career? How do you use it on a day-to-day basis?

10) This is a follow-up to Question 9. Who are 10 to 15 of your favorite Twitter follows in sports business?

11) I know I should be doing more networking and attending industry conferences, but I’m slightly shy. It’s also difficult for me to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation out of thin air. Are there any tips you have for getting past that initial fear/hurdle? Any icebreakers/opening liners you’ve found beneficial in your career that I might be able to borrow?

12) This is a follow-up to Question 11. For an undergraduate (or graduate) student like myself, are there one or two industry conferences you’d suggest attending where there’s good access to speakers/attendees and open opportunities to have mini one off conversations with folks?

13) I’m still unsure what area of the sports industry I’d like to work in. I’m also a social science major, and it’s too late to change majors now. Are there any sports-specific or non-sports-specific classes you’d suggest enrolling in during my final two undergraduate semesters to better prepare myself for a career in sports?

14) I’ve heard from many professionals that inside ticket sales is the easiest way to break into sports. However, I’m not interested in selling tickets and calling 75 people a day. Outside of sales, what is one up-and-coming area in sports that I should be mindful of as I consider where I could best leverage my skill set?

15) Regardless of where I want to work in sports, are there two or three hard skills you’d suggest refining/honing in my final few undergraduate years?

16) What was your biggest hurdle to breaking into sports? Looking back and knowing what you know now, was there anything you could have done to lessen that struggle?

17) It seems like everyone today has a graduate degree of some kind. I saw that you’ve been working for 10 years and don’t have a Master’s or MBA yet. Have you considered obtaining a second degree yet? If so, what factors led you to bypassing on more education right now? What do you think would make you obtain a second degree?

18) What is one misconception about working in sports that students probably aren’t aware of?

19) I noticed that you’ve worked at four companies in your eight years in the industry. What were the defining characteristics about each new position/company that led you to switch jobs?

20) This is a follow-up to Question 19. What have been the key transferrable skills (soft skills or hard skills) you’ve been able to carry with you throughout your career?

21) Either when you were a student or professional, have you had any close mentors during your career? What about them and their personality, advice, guidance, etc., made the relationship particularly special?

22) I’m currently interviewing for spring and summer internships. I noticed you had three internships during your undergraduate career before you accepted your first full-time role. Is there one or two red flags you’d suggest that I should be mindful of when evaluating whether or not to accept an offer?

23) I noticed from your Twitter feed that you post a lot of industry-specific articles. How much time per day do you spend reading about sports business? What are your favorite news publications, industry resources and podcasts (sports and non-sports)?

24) Based on what you know now, is there any one or two things you wish you would have done at my age in order to better position yourself to break into the industry?

25) Considering I’m interested in (insert niche in sports), is there one other professional you’d suggest reaching out to learn more about their background, career, day-to-day role, etc?

26) What is one of the most important investments in yourself that you’ve ever made? How has that investment helped your career?

27) I love the saying that goes somewhere along the lines of ‘You’re the sum of the five people you spend the most amount of time with’. Who would those five people be for you, and what specific traits about those individuals put them in your top five? (Slightly personal question, might be best suited for your second/third interaction with a professional).

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INTERNSHIPS (Paid/For-Credit)

  1. Major League Soccer (Paid Sales Trainee Program (National Sales Center); January 2018 (opportunities available year-round); Blaine, Minnesota; 8-12 weeks
  2. Creative Artists Agency (Paid Sports MBA Internship Program); Summer 2018; Los Angeles; 40 hours/week
  3. National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (Paid Athletic Communications/Sports Media Internship); January — June 2018; Kansas City, Missouri
  4. NASCAR (Paid Diversity Internship Program); Summer 2018; 10 weeks
  5. ESG Law (Paid/For-Credit Legal Internships); Spring/Summer/Fall 2018; Remote

About Mark J. Burns

One thought on “27 Questions You Could Ask During Informational Interviews

  1. As a grad student currently reaching out to industry professionals, I found your suggestions to be spot on. Curious to know how you suggest approaching these two situations: 1. The person you are speaking with works for a company offering an internship you are interested in – do you ask them directly to be an advocate? 2. How do you follow-up to keep the relationship going – a simple thank you email, hand written note, reach out when something interesting in the industry happens? Thanks Mark!

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