It’s interesting how many people don’t incorporate the use of informational interviews as part of a job search. Setting up informational interviews is truly one of the best ways to let people know you’re looking for new opportunities while also gathering great insights, information and creating connections in organizations or industries you find interesting.
What are Informational Interviews?
An informational interview is a meeting/call you set-up with an individual in a job area, company or industry that you are interested in learning more about. And although they are NOT the same as a job interview, the preparation and professionalism in your approach should be the same. On occasion, an informational interview can be a first step toward an actual job interview, so approach it accordingly.
Aren’t Informational Interviews only for recent graduates or those early in their career?
The short answer is “NO”! Informational interviews allow you to meet new people and learn about jobs, companies and organizations you may not have been aware of. This can and should be done continuously throughout your career.
I have no idea where to begin.
For some, asking for an informational interview can be as terrifying as an actual job interview. If so, start by reaching out to people with whom you’re comfortable to get practice. Once you gain more confidence, start reaching out to others.
Here are some steps to follow to ensure a quality conversation:
· Have a goal, and make sure the individual you’re meeting with knows what it is that you’d like to discuss with them. If you’re not certain what you’d like to learn, it’s difficult for others to help you.
· Do your research. Research what you can online, so you’re not wasting time asking questions about information you can find yourself. Check out the individual on LinkedIn, learn about their background, gather general information on the company they work for as well as the industry.
· Be curious. It’s always interesting when a client tells me they don’t know what to ask. There’s so much that you can learn from people. Write down five (or more) things you’d like to learn. Then develop questions around those data points.
· Be prepared. Know what you want to ask. Write down your questions and practice them out loud. What follow-up questions do you have? Maybe role play with someone if you’re not comfortable. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel.
· Say thank you. People are taking time out of their day and doing you a favor so make sure that they know you truly appreciate the time and information. Part of this appreciation includes sending a thank you email and/or handwritten note, but also making sure that you follow-up on ideas or people/leads they shared with you.
Finally, be sure to document and track your meetings. Take notes during the meeting, but also document not only what they told you, but ideas, suggestions, people they suggested you also contact. Detailing all this in a spreadsheet, including follow-up dates, will prevent things from slipping through the cracks.
Informational interviews are just a part of the big giant research project, called your job search. Have fun!
- Mary Beth Barrett-Newman, Career Coach, CRC Board Member and Advisor