What? You’ve Never Had an Informational Interview?
You’re practically giving away your dream job to your competition.
Informational interviews can be tricky to schedule or plan, but can be productive and help you understand the career field you want to go into. You should be prepared to talk about yourself, but know when you should switch to asking questions. During this conversation, you’ll have the chance to make a positive impression as long as you are well prepared. Informational interviews may seem like a waste of time, depending on the industry, but they do have benefits.
Specific information about a prospective career can’t always be found online. The best way to find out what you need to know about a new career is to actually talk to someone working there. So, getting that informational interview and spending that time asking questions will grant you a peek into that window. A few of the things you could learn would be:
- Tips for how to enter a career
- Potential career paths you haven’t thought about
- What it’s actually like to work at the interviewee’s organization
- How to tap into a new network through the professional relationship you just initiated
- Know what you need to put on your resume, say during an interview for a position, and anything else you want to know about getting a job in that field
While those are all wonderful benefits to the outcome of an informational interview, but is it possible to get a job with this kind of interview alone?
The preparation begins before you schedule the interview. Identify what you want to learn and have a list of questions ready, with room to take notes. Take time to research the person you will be interviewing with – know their background and have a general idea of the career field you’ll be interviewing about.
When you arrive for the interview, most likely, you will check in with the receptionist. Once the interviewee arrives, if you don’t already know them, be sure to introduce yourself and thank them for the opportunity. Make sure you emphasize, again, that you are there to gather information and learn about the career field. During the actual interview, you should be professional but relatively informal as you are simply there to obtain information. It should feel more like you are asking for advice, rather than for a job. Take notes and listen.
After the interview is over, make sure you thank them. An email or handwritten card, regardless of the result of the conversation, sent within 48 hours of the interview, adds additional personal touch to show your appreciation. Include specifics about what you enjoyed about the encounter – this will make you more memorable. Stay in touch and, when appropriate, take advantage of their network.
Outcomes of the Informational Interview
Informational interviews can be powerful. Displaying your interest with the right amount of research and asking the right questions makes a great first impression. While the objective of these interviews is not to ask for a job or discover job openings, with the right combination of what you can do for the company and how you present that information could prove more fruitful than getting answers to your questions. It is uncommon to be offered a job afterwards however, if you play your cards correctly, a position can be created. Your cards start showing their worth from the moment you say ‘hello.’
If you are lucky enough to schedule an informational interview, take advantage of the benefits that can present themselves. The answers to your questions are just the beginning what you can gain from this interview. You’ll be able to expand your network, improve your resume, and know if the career is right for you or if you should have a backup plan. Keep in mind that it is unlikely a job will be gained from this experience, but it is a beneficial technique for starting a relationship with people within a specific field. Informational interviews are developmental opportunities that should not be disregarded.
By Kaley Buck, Five Strengths Contributor
Image attributed to graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.