Informational interviews probably aren’t what you’re thinking...
Rather than being questioned about your accomplishments for a potential job. Informational interviews are a tool for job seekers to learn about a role or company before applications are painstakingly filled out and cover letters (also painstakingly) drafted. They are a chance to have an informal conversation with someone in a particular company, career path, or occupation to see if the area of interest might be a good fit.
As a job seeker, you may have read about a company, watched shows featuring certain job skills, or been told what a great chef/teacher/dog-catcher/astronaut you’d be. Why not ask questions of someone actually in the field? Better to find out the ins and outs now before investing time, money, and education in something that’s not right for you.
5 Steps For A Successful Informational Interview
Step 1: Identify A Person Of Interest
LinkedIn, family, friends, colleagues, and industry-specific groups are all great resources! We all love to offer help to those in our network. Don't be afraid to ask the people you know for recommendations or connections!
Step 2: Make Contact
Let the person of interest know that you’d appreciate 30 minutes of their time and provide an overview of what you are hoping to get out of the meeting.
Remember, give people 72 hours to a week to get back to you!
If you’re being set up by a mutual friend, consider asking them to write a three-way message introducing you. Otherwise keep the email to the point, ultra-specific, and understand if the person isn’t willing or able to help. Here are a few templates designed to open doors. If someone declines, reply graciously that you understand and thank them for taking the time to let you know.
Step 3: Preparation Is Key
Write down questions that are relevant to the concerns or questions you have about the roles/career field. Here is a list of questions to get you started! Remember, 30 minutes is not a long period of time. I tell clients to plan on having 5-7 questions ready to get the conversation going.
Stay professional and on task. If you hit it off and the conversation wanders, great! But have a plan and make sure you walk away with more education than before.
And remember, this isn’t a job interview, it’s to learn more. Don’t assume you’ll leave a resume with the person at the end of the conversation. You can always submit documents through proper channels after the fact, but an informational interview is designed to help you make an educated decision about whether or not to apply. Informational interviews are simply to help you become more educated.
Step 4: During the Informational Interview
Bring paper and a pen to take notes. Yes, it’s old-fashioned but it will help you remember specifics over time.
If they have a business card, feel free to ask for one. It usually contains direct contact info that might help down the line.
Remember, never record a conversation without asking permission first.
Step 5: After the Interview
Be sure to send a thank you note.
Bonus! Provide a specific detail from your conversation to show you were listening and retained information from your conversation.
Informational interviews are the key to helping you understand more about a company, career path, or occupation. Need extra help coming up with an informational interview plan, schedule a session with a career coach today!
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