June 25, 2018

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Informational Interviews

Many people find jobs through networking and informational interviews are a part of the networking process. What you gather at these interviews is information helpful for the next job interview.

The informational interview is usually a relaxed, friendly question/answer session that can be conducted in person or via letter. While it is friendly, you still need to prepare for the meeting. Oftentimes the person you're meeting with doesn't know you. Give them some background about yourself, and ask questions appropriate for the level of the person you're meeting with. For example, you don't want to ask a VP of Marketing the basics about marketing.

Before going into a meeting, get prepared. You are going to be leading the meeting so before you get there:

  1. Write down questions you want answered. Remember, make the questions relevant to the position of the person you're talking to. You should have done some research on the industry beforehand.
  2. Find out as much as you can about the person, their responsibilities and the area they work in
  3. Be prepared to give a short 'advertisement' about yourself and your accomplishments

When going into the meeting, of course you'll want to exchange pleasantries as well as talking about why you are there. It wouldn't hurt to plug the research you've done on the company and why you thought they were a good person to talk to. Remember to mention the person who referred them to you.

At this point, they're wondering how they can help you. Before giving them the details on this, give them the 'advertisement' on yourself you've already prepared to give them some background. Then you begin to ask the questions you've created. This will help you keep your conversation targeted.

Some questions that are useful:

Basically, you're showing an interest in what these people do for a living. With informational interviews becoming increasingly popular, some managers are wary of meeting with job seekers because they ask for a job. Companies have processes in place for handling job requests and going around these processes shows disrespect for the company, its policies, and the time of the manager.

  • Research the company ahead of time
  • Use referrals and introductions
  • Make the interviewee comfortable
  • Respect their time
  • Maintain your focus
  • Accept substitutes
  • Ask for a job
  • Cold call them and ask complex questions
  • Ask questions not suitable for the level of the person
  • Forget to write a thank-you note to everyone

At the end of the interview, only ask for referrals if it's appropriate. Most often if the informational interview is the first time you've met with this contact, you won't receive referrals though you'll be walking away with valuable information to arm yourself with when you go on an interview.

Always remember to send a thank-you to the referral for their time and the information they gave. Most professionals are happy to share the knowledge they've gained over the years and these people will be valuable to you as a networking contact and the thank-you letter helps you work towards a relationship.

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