Informational Interviews The Most Innovative Gateway To a New Job

Are you feeling lost? Do you feel like you’ve exhausted your job search strategies? If so, making a plan to set up informational interviews is a great way to start networking and secure a new job.

Networking over lunch or a coffee with a professional in your field of interest is one of the smartest ways to grab insights and tips into the industry that you are considering for your next job or a career change. You might be surprised to learn about what your desired career change may actually entail.

Don’t let preconceived notions about a particular type of position overrun your broader job search and career plans. The more information you collect, the better able you’ll be to refine your job search to positions that best match your experience and your goals. To help you line up as many informational interviews as you can, I’ve broken down the ‘dos’, ‘don’ts’, ‘hows’ and ‘how-nots’ of informational interviewing.

I speak to hundreds of job hunters and career changers each year and I know it can be hard to motivate yourself to reach out when a job offer isn’t necessarily a potential outcome, but trust me, taking the time to get to know people in your industry (or your desired industry) is worth the extra effort. And, it’ll probably land you a job offer in the long run. Here is How:

What needs to happen in an Informational Interview?

Your primary objective is to obtain as much useful information about industry realities and your interviewee’s experience as well as information about which company or companies are hiring in your chosen field as possible. But, no matter how much you may want to ask, the point of the interview is not to ask for a job.

You should also always treat the meeting for an informational interview as you would a real job interview. After all, your goal is to make a good impression and maintain a positive relationship with this new member of your network.

How do you secure an Informational Interview?

Setting up meetings with new contacts is really not hard thanks to social media. The more people you meet with, the larger your potential network becomes and the more people they can introduce you to. I always recommend that you start out by asking your friends, peers and even family members if they have any contacts that work in your field of interest, or even a related field. Use your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn or good old fashioned email to get started.

Then, you can move to your ‘cold contacts’ (i.e. people you have no connection to – yet.)  I am pretty confident that you have at least 50 – 100 potentially useful 2nd or 3rd level contacts in your social media networks. It might be easiest to request an informational interview from the HR department of a company you’re interested in. However, it’s important to ask to meet a specific person as opposed to emailing an entire department. Introduce yourself as you would in a cover letter, and let them know you’re interested in learning about their company, the work they do, or contemporary dilemmas in their industry. We can help you with a personalised cover letter for Informational Interviews. If possible, be specific and show that you’ve already done some research. Also, attach an updated resume to give them a bit more context about your background.

Don’t get discouraged when you don’t hear back from everyone, because you probably won’t.  But, if you don’t hear back from your dream company, ensure to send a follow up note! People are always more interested in helping when they know you’re not willing to let a first rejection stop you. Yes, I’m not kidding! You’re not being annoying; you are being persistent and genuine. If they still don’t respond, just remember that it probably isn’t you. They probably are just really busy. Here’s the upside.  When someone does get back to you, it means they’re in a good position to offer real help to you as an informational interview.

Ensure to Do Your Research.

First (and I can’t stress this enough), come prepared to your informational interview! Nothing annoys professionals more than wasting their time with people who come unprepared. To get the most out of the time you have, make sure you’ve thought through questions you want to ask, and, ensure to bring something to take notes. Your goal is to tease out aspects of their job that can’t be unearthed on Google, so make sure to research everything you can about them and their company beforehand.

Second, ensure to present both broad and specific questions. Ask about the industry at large and their relationship to related fields to better understand the scope of job possibilities associated with your interest.

This kind of information will help you narrow in on a more specific job title that fits with your interests, personality and industry experience. Don’t forget to find out about your interview’s career path. What led them to where they are today? What tools did they use to get there? This kind of information will help you hone in on what you’re doing right and what you could be doing differently to reach your goals.

Listen and learn and discover about yourself.

Once you have a better understanding of your interview’s position and background, you can start to address how you might fit into their world. You’ve already sent them your resume, but don’t be offended if they haven’t had the time to inspect it thoroughly. Always ensure to bring an up-to-date copy for them to look over, and ask their opinion about the content. How does your experience compare to other similar-level applicants? This is a great opportunity to get honest feedback about your strengths and weaknesses from an industry professional. You might even find out that you’re not organising the information in a way that best presents what you have to offer. In that case, they’ll probably have advice for how to optimise your resume for their particular industry. Take it, and ask for permission to send them your updated resume.

Stay in touch and secure references.

Always send a thank you note after the informational interview (not via txt message please). Use email or LinkedIn (if you are connected) and continue to touch base with them as your job search progresses. If an opening pops up at their company, you want to be the first candidate in mind. Also, if the person you’ve met with can put you in contact with someone they think will be helpful to your job search, they’ll likely bring it up on their own. However, don’t be shy about asking for these other professional references.

What are You Waiting For? Go Get started!

Gain perspective, gain and demonstrate confidence, and practise targeting what you really want in your job search. Believe me, information is what makes you really competent so get as much of it as you can and you’ll instantly become a more viable job candidate. Just always remember to hunt wisely!