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Informational-Interview Questions for Entrepreneurs
Compiled by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
Informational Interviews are a wonderful networking tool, as well as for learning more about careers in which you are interested.
What if you're more interested in starting your own business than working for someone else? Informational interviews are terrific for finding out more about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
Here are questions to consider asking entrepreneurs when you interview them:
- What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about?
- How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the organization the way you do?
- How important have good employees been to your success?
- What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
- If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
- What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
- How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
- How many hours do you work a day on average?
- Describe/outline your typical day?
- How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
- What motivates you?
- How do you generate new ideas?
- How far are you willing to go to succeed?
- What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
- What are your ideals?
- How do you define success?
- What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
- Is your company profitable or what is your profit for last year?
- Where did your organization's funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
- How do you build a successful customer base?
- How did you decide on the location for your business?
- Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
- If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
- Who has been your greatest inspiration?
- What book has inspired you the most? (OR What is your favorite book?)
- What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
- To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
- What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
- What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
- How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
- What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
- In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
- What are some of the biggest mistakes you've made?
- How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
- What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
- What makes you happy?
- What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
- Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
- If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
To learn much more about informational interviewing, read our detailed guide, the Informational Interviewing Tutorial.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com.
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