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The informational interview is a method of finding out details about a job or a project from someone who is qualified to talk about it. Steve Wilson describes what it is all about.
Marci Alboher writes in the New York Times about “Mastering the Informational Interview”.

This is yet another facet of networking. There is so much to be gained if the informational interview is well planned and structured.

I made a comment to the effect that it is tempting to rush out and do an informational interview with almost anybody. That would be a big mistake. The secret, I believe, is to first identify a list of people who are qualified to help you. From this list, you need to prune names until you zone in on a few key individuals who probably will give you the best value.

There is no substitute for preparation. The kind of questions you ask sets the tone for the meeting. You ask incisive questions, you will get the best answers. If you ask dumb questions, you are wasting your time and theirs!