Getting Hired: Informational Interviews
A successful job search starts with networking, but how can you take it a step further?
The answer is to ask for an informational interview. An informational interview is a meeting in which a job seeker seeks advice on their career, the industry, and the corporate culture of a potential workplace. Although it may seem awkward to request an informational interview with a stranger or an acquaintance, there are many benefits to an informal conversation about a potential role or employer.
Informational Interviews are a great way for job seekers to learn more about a company, industry or position. Susan, a search consultant for marketing professionals and a volunteer with Hire Heroes USA, tells clients that many employers use informational interviews as a tool for their business. “With unemployment at an all-time low, the smart companies will use informational interviewing as a recruiting tool to build a pipeline of potential candidates whether or not they have a current opening.”
So, how do you start the process of asking for an informational interview?
Step 1: Research
Prior to initiating contact with someone, do your research and make sure you understand the general landscape of the industry. This information will help you create a list of relevant questions to ask during an informational interview
Step 2: Find Contacts
Steve, a certified professional coach and volunteer with Hire Heroes USA, provides this insight on knowing who to ask for an informational interview: “Ask people who are in the types of positions/careers that [you are] seeking to learn about/get into.” A great place to look for connections is on LinkedIn, where you can search people by job titles, companies and industries, and identify connections you have already established.
Step 3: Initiate Contact
Connect via a LinkedIn message or email. The initial contact doesn’t need to be extensive or include a wealth of detail. Keep it concise and professional like the example below.
Hi Mrs. Thompson,
My name is John, and I’m gearing up to make a switch to the Information Security field. I see you have a wealth of experience in that area, and I’d appreciate the opportunity to hear your perspective on the industry and what it’s like to work with your company. I know you’re busy, so I’d appreciate even a 10-minute phone call to pick your brain. I hope to hear from you soon.
Step 4: Conduct the Interview
Prepare for the conversation in the same way you would prepare for a formal interview. The only difference is that you will be asking the questions! Gather information on the position, company and industry, and prepare 3-5 questions to ask. Here are some examples:
- What stood out about your current company and position over others in the field?
- What is the most rewarding and most challenging part of working in this industry?
- What experiences, skills, or personality traits do companies in the field generally look for in new hires?
Dress in business casual attire, remain courteous and professional during the conversation, and thank the person for their time. Remember, an informational interview is all about relationship building and making a positive image so if a position develops they will think of you. An informational interview is not the time to ask for a job.
Step 5: Follow Through
After the interview, write a thank you note or email. Beyond the thank you note, be sure to follow-up with your new connection periodically to update them on your job search. Informational interviewees are a long-term part of your job search.
“Think of informational interviews as seeds you’re planting for the success of your farm (career),” Steve says. “Once planted, they have to be managed and tended to and grown to ensure quality (growth of relationship).”
Written by Erin Kuhlmann, Hire Heroes USA Development Coordinator