Informational interviewing might just be the best way to get a job and yet it is underused by most job seekers. Whenever I work with a career development client and we get to the informational interviewing step, I am met with hesitance and resistance. I get it! Cold calling is a scary and dreaded way to talk to a potential employer, but it is so effective!
Really, the problem is that It is misunderstood and overlooked as a means to get a foot in the door for a job.
Think of an information interview meeting as a networking opportunity. This is a one-on-one meeting with a key person in a field that you have a high interest in.
It may be that you have preconceived ideas about a particular career. Information interviewing can give you a better sense of what it would be like to work in the field you’ve chosen. It is first-hand, realistic, information you can use to form your idea of your ideal career.
An informational interview is less formal than a real interview. It allows you the opportunity to show off your personality, your skills, interests, and aptitude in a semi-relaxed atmosphere. Because of this, you will likely come across as more authentic to the interviewer. An informational interview gives a prospective employer better insight into who you are, and how you might be a good fit for the organization in the near future. This is a win-win situation for everyone.
“Foot in the door”
At the typical interview that follows an application, you might feel that you’re in an interview mill—the interviewer bored with all the candidates and simply saying, “Next. Next,” after each interview. This may leave you feeling less than confident in your ability to outperform the next person. With an information interview, you aren’t going to be competing for a time slot, and chances are the interviewer has 15-20 minutes they can carve out of their busy day to talk shop. Many people enjoy this opportunity to talk about themselves, and about how they got to where they are, as well as to help young job-seekers find a springboard from which to launch their careers.
Because informational interviews are less formal—and stressful—the conversations usually flow easier. Remember, you aren’t there to ask for a job. You’re only there to learn. You want information that will help guide you in the direction of the career best suited for YOU. This means you are the one in control of the questions and the outcome of the interview. This is a great time to let your guard down a little, let your true personality shine, as well as briefly showcase how your skills benefit the company. You can also take the opportunity to ask more strategic questions—questions that help you, but perhaps would not be appropriate at a real interview. You can ask about benefits, salary, and even the social climate of the organization without portraying yourself in a negative light.
Gain insight, and Practice Interviewing
This is the opportunity for you to come in prepared to ask the right questions. People enjoy telling their story and you can get a real sense of what the company or career might be like, and so determine whether your chosen career is truly a good fit for you.
Additionally, if some parts of the interview process intimidate you, this is an excellent way to come up with a game-plan and practice. Remember practice ONLY makes for improvement.
If you feel a connection with the person you meet with, you may well have lucked into a mentoring relationship opportunity. Your interviewer might really be impressed with the initiative you show by requesting an informational interview, and may be willing to offer further advice and support. And this goes both ways. Because of the rapport you build in this interview, you yourself might ask for further guidance via follow ups which we’ll talk about later in this chapter.
How to conduct yourself at the interview
- You should regard each interview as a business appointment and conduct yourself in a professional manner.
- Write a THANK YOU NOTE to the people you have interviewed. Report back to them if you have followed up on any suggestions.
The last thing to remember is that informational interviews are extremely effective. How effective? According to Dr. Randall Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the web, “While one out of every 200 resumes (some studies put the number as high as 1,500 resumes) results in a job offer, one out of every 12 informational interviews results in a job offer.”
Informational Interviews are so effective that despite that the stated aim is NOT to get a job, many Informational Interviews still end up with a job offer.
So, go ahead and pick up that phone, you may just land a job!
To read more about interviewing, resumes and finding your passion career, purchase my book
Happiness + Passion + Purpose Book A Step By Step Guide On How To Nourish The Patterns Of Your Life Into The Job You Will Love And Land It!