Informational interviews are one of the best ways to make influential contacts, expand your network, get inside information on an industry or career field, and learn about unadvertised job openings. Believe it or not, you can actually get a job by having an informational interview.
The purpose of the informational interview is to get information about a company, industry or occupational field. The primary objectives of the informational interview are to: investigate a specific career field, broaden your network of contacts for future reference, and/or obtain advice on where you might fit in. This is a nonthreatening interview, and you should never make the interviewer feel like you are asking for a job; you only want information. I have seen people make such a positive impression on the interviewer that, once a position opened up, they were called for an interview and got the job.
In order to pull this off, here are some guidelines to follow:
1. Identify an occupation to explore through informational interviews.
Identify one or more occupations you would like to investigate. Assess your own skills, interests, abilities, and values, so you will able to talk about yourself objectively. Learn as much as you can about the field before the interview.
2. Identify people to interview.
Start with the people that you know: friends, fellow students, present or former co-workers (in good standing), supervisors, neighbors, etc. Professional organizations, the yellow pages of the phone book, organizational directories and public speakers are also good sources for leads.
3. Prepare ahead of time.
Research the organization, the person you’ll be speaking with, products produced by the organization, etc. Formulate questions pertaining to the organization. The more knowledge you have, the more confident you will be.
Ask only questions that are appropriate and important to you. Your passion will come across to the employer by acknowledging that the information the interviewee is giving you is important.
Some sample questions are:
- What exactly do you do? What are the duties/functions/responsibilities of your job?
- What is a typical workday like?
- How did you get your job? What jobs and experiences led you to your present position?
- What’s the best way to enter this occupation?
- What can you tell me about your organization’s corporate culture?
The whole interview could be spent finding answers to dozens of questions you decide to ask. People are often happy to discuss their positions and willing to provide you with a wealth of information.
Try to keep the conversation friendly, brief, and focused on the contact person’s job and career field. After the interview (within 24 hours), send the interviewer a thank-you email and handwritten card. That will really impress them.
Never ask for a job. Don’t mix informational interviewing with jobseeking. Employers will grant informational interviews when they firmly trust that you will not hit them up for a job. The minute you begin trying to get a job, the employer will feel misled.
Sometimes the interviewer may offer you an internship or a job. It’s happened on numerous occasions. So, try informational interviews and watch what happens next in your job search!