Informational Interviews for Job Search Success-Part 1

Informational interviews are critical to a successful job search.  Many job seekers don’t do them at all which puts them at a significant disadvantage in the search and others do not do them well so they miss a valuable opportunity to differentiate themselves.  Informational interviewing is the goal of most networking connections.  When you ask for a networking meeting you are requesting an information interview.

Why do an informational interview?

  • Learn about the company, the culture, current issues, career paths, specific roles, etc. from an insider
  • Gain insights you may not be able to find online
  • Build an advocate within the company for future support

What can you gain from an informational interview?

  • Learn about the contact’s industry, company and/or work environment and culture
  • Gain insight into specific jobs, roles, functions and departments
  • Hear advice on how you can translate your skills and experience to new industry, company or role
  • Obtain names of other recommended networking contacts
  • Gather recommendations for professional associations you should join
  • Gain insight into your career options
  • Establish an inside contact within the organization

What an informational interview is not

  • It is not asking for a job or applying for a specific position, instead it is an information gathering adventure and hopefully the start of a mutually beneficial relationship

How should I prepare for an informational interview?

  • Be respectful of the contact’s time and position yourself positively and professionally by being very well prepared
  • Research the company in advance – overview of products, services, target markets, competitors, financial performance, recent news, etc.
  • Research the person you will be meeting with – google them, check Linked In, the company web site
  • Think about what you can offer the contact – can you share networking contacts, professional association connections, information based on shared interests, etc.
  • Define your goals for the meeting clearly
  • Identify questions you plan to ask to support your goals

Should I bring a resume to a networking meeting?

  • It would be better to bring a networking profile to share.  It highlights and summarizes your past experience but also includes what you hope to do and your target companies.  It makes it easier for a contact to identify opportunities to assist you.
  • If you bring a resume, keep in your portfolio until asked for it.
  • Never open the meeting with a resume.  It could ensure a very short meeting.

How can I ensure a successful information interview?

  • Arrive a few minutes early.  Be sure you know in advance how to get there and be prepared with a photo id in case it is needed at security.
  • Dress as the successful business professional you aspire to be.  Make a good first impression.
  • Bring business cards and a note pad so you can take notes.  This demonstrates that you are engaged and that you value the information and insights being shared.
  • Establish rapport with the individual and thank them for meeting with you.
  • Find common ground – the person who referred you, alumni connection, etc.
  • Clarify the purpose of the meeting, this assures them you are not asking for a job.  Instead focus on expanding your professional network, learning more about specific careers and companies.
  • Ask questions and take notes.
  • Ask if they would be willing to connect via LinkedIn.
  • Answer their questions.  Don’t ramble.
  • Ask for advice and information.
  • Request referrals – who do they know that might benefit you.
  • Always thank them for their time and insights.
  • Keep them posted down the road.
  • Send a handwritten thank you note – it will help them remember you.
  • Demonstrate your enthusiasm – remember to smile.
  • Pay attention – you can pick up clues about the work environment and the culture.
  • Remember, one person’s opinion may not be representative of the whole company.  Talk to multiple people in the same organization if possible.

What are the next steps?

  • Always send a handwritten thank you note within 24 hours of your meeting.
  • If you asked about connecting via LinkedIn and they said yes, send a customized request to connect.
  • Keep them posted periodically on your process and let them know if something they recommended is very helpful to you.

 

 

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