Informational Interviews

Now that I’m beginning to think about where I want to take my career next, I should be digging up that most powerful of job search tools, the INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW. This was really the biggest thing that helped me get a job after I got laid off. I cannot stress to you enough how important this is in helping, nay, leading your job search.

So you’ve done the legwork and set up some “informational interviews,” so now what? Someone who you know knows a lot about what you want to know and is willing to sit down with you and talk one on one in a no-strings-attached sharing of ideas. This is a golden opportunity, young grasshopper. So what do you talk about?

Goals of the informational interview to keep in mind (all essential overall goals of all job searches)… I’ve made up three “L” words to sound catchy and help you remember:

  1. LEARN- Gather information to better prepare you for future interviews and more importantly for your future job
  2. LOVE- Make friends to set you apart to get hired and/or just have an ally/buddy who is in the same field who you can always turn to for advice
  3. LEADS- Expand your network and get to know someone who can help you and knows people that can help you

People love talking about themselves – just love it. And luckily, you have a lot to learn from them. Asking the right questions will illicit a lot of information, but also make you look thoughtful, sociable, and interesting. Here are some types of questions to ask that will make people feel special and want to keep talking, but also leads to information you need to know that will help you a lot:

  1. Start out generally: How did you get into this? What was your schooling? What was your first job? – This gets the ball rolling and lets you know what sort of path you should take to end up where they are.
  2. Tell me a bit about yourself: What is your official title? What are your main roles and responsibilities? Who do you work with? Who is your supervisor? Who do you supervise?
  3. Generally specific: What hours are expected at work? What is the average starting salary? What is the average salary of those in top positions? Is it difficult to move up? What is the vibe of the office like, strict or casual?
  4. Modelling yourself in their image: What qualities do you have that you feel are most important to this job? What strengths are essential for this position? What is your favourite thing about the job? – This allows you to reflect upon your own strengths and why you would be suited for this job. Later you can convince a hiring manager that you possess these strengths.
  5. Introduce controversy: What do you dislike about the job? What are some challenges you face? – More consideration, this time of your weaknesses and give you ideas on how you would handle common challenges.
  6. General field-related one-offs: How has/will the recession affect the industry? How has/will new technologies affect the industry? What are new challenges being faced by companies in this field? – This will give you a better sense of your search, but also give ideas on how you can fit yourself into where you are needed, thus making yourself more valuable.
  7. Straight up advice: Now that you know a little bit more about me, what sort of position do you think is suited for me in the industry? What path could you see yourself taking if you were me? What have I done right? What should I do in the future?
  8. Tapping the maple tree: Who would I talk to at your company about getting a job? What are some of your competitors who are also doing good work in your opinion? Do you know any good people you think I should talk to? – Doi! This will give you ideas of where to go next in your search. If not where they work, then somewhere else.

Does that not sound like just the most delightful conversation? I’m interested already. Keep in mind your three L-word goals I outlined above (I should be writing manuals look at me with my lingo!!!) when you ask your questions. Most importantly, be yourself. You are sincerely interested in what they have to say and what you have to learn from them so just have a nice chat and soak up as much knowledge as your healthy little spongey mind take! Bring your resume and business card to leave behind for their no-pressure perusal and go forth and interview!

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