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The value of informational interviews....

Career Exploration The Hiring Process The Local Job Market

Question:

I keep hearing about informational interviews. What are they, and how can they help in my job search?

Answer:

Informational interviews are very valuable for your job search. You get to talk with someone who does what you think you want to do, and/or who works where you think you want to work. You get the inside scoop on the tasks, the environment or whatever else you want to know.

You probably will not get a job from an informational interview, though that does occasionally happen. The goal is to get insider knowledge about the company you want to work for, or about the career goal you dream about.

Sometimes an informational interview will keep you from making an expensive mistake. You might find out that the job you’ve always dreamed of having won’t actually suit you at all. That’s a good thing to know before you invest months in training for that job.

Some tips about informational interviewing:

·     Talk with your networking buddies to find someone you want to interview. Your buddy may even be able to help by introducing you to someone he knows.

·     If you have no one to introduce you, consider contacting the person through LinkedIn or his/her company website.

·     Don’t ask for an informational interview; ask for a few minutes of the person’s time to discuss professional business.

·     It’s best to meet in person, optimally at his workplace; that way, you get an idea of the industry and the environment as well. But it’s much better to meet by phone or email than not to meet at all.

·     Mention at the very beginning why you are contacting this person. “I’ve seen your work (in the newspaper, the museum, etc.) and am very impressed.” “Everyone says you’re the local expert on ….” “I was referred to you by ….” “I’m interested in doing similar work to yours, and I’m hoping you can give me some tips on …”

·     Consider beginning the conversation with a compliment.

·     Have some specific questions to ask. Prepare them before you meet or make contact.

·     Don’t ask a question that Google could answer for you. Do your research ahead of time.

·     Most people love to talk about themselves and their work. Look at it as an opportunity for both of you.

·     Give something back. Make it worth their time to talk with you. If you meet in person, buy coffee or lunch for her.  Provide some information that will be useful.

·     Stay in touch with the person, if he seems receptive to that. There may be an opening in his company for someone like you at a later time; if you have a continuing conversation, even occasionally, he may advocate for you.

·     Ask the person if he can think of anyone else you should contact for more information.

·     Do not stalk anyone for an informational interview. If the person seems to be trying to end contact, even politely, turn your attention elsewhere. 

·     When you come to the end of your list of contacts, develop more contacts.

Will this be awkward? Probably. But if your need to be comfortable outweighs other concerns, you’re probably going to be job searching a long time. Think of informational interviews as being curious, as reaching out to other people who might like to be helpful.

Check out this website for more about informational interviewing: www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2010/summer/art03.pdf