Informational interviews are changing the way individuals job search. These informal discussions are a way for you to speak with people who work in a role, in an industry, or at a company that interests you. The information, advice, and suggestions gained during these interviews can be key in finding the perfect lead.
Are you unsure of how to proceed with one? The solutions to these 5 common problems will point you in the right direction.
PROBLEM #1: You don’t know who to ask.
SOLUTION: Contact friends, relatives, and first-level LinkedIn contacts to ask them to connect you to folks in your target industry or companies.
People in your existing network can be the source of great leads. When they share contacts with you, be sure to use your connection’s name during outreach. You’ll face little, if any, rejection. Send an email to introduce yourself and let the contact know you will be calling them. Prepare a short script for the phone call to provide a brief background about your career and the reason you would like to schedule an informational interview.
PROBLEM #2: You are new in town and don’t have an extensive network of friends or family.
SOLUTION: Tap into resources you are already using, such as your real estate agent, mortgage broker, or hairstylist.
The individuals you’ve met are well connected with the local market and have an extensive base of contacts. Remember, you are doing business with them so you have already started a relationship. Another tip is to look up the professional association within your industry and find a local chapter. This is a great way to meet working professionals who can share valuable insights and resources.
PROBLEM #3: You are nervous about conducting the informational interview.
SOLUTION: Change your perspective!
You are the one conducting the interview and asking the questions. Come prepared with open-ended questions to gain insights on the local job market, your target industry, and thriving companies. Here are a few examples:
- How did you become involved in the field?
- What challenges do you face in your job?
- What trends/opportunities do you see in the industry?
- When your organization hires employees, what channels or methods do they use?
PROBLEM #4: Your informational interview contact does not know of relevant job openings.
SOLUTION: Don’t be discouraged. All is not lost.
You are interviewing them to gain information – not just job leads. Use the information you receive to hone in on target companies and positions or to refine your résumé to emphasize key skills. Successful informational interviews help you create a more robust job search strategy and improve your ability to find quality leads.
PROBLEM #5: You don’t know how to establish follow-up steps.
SOLUTION: Ask for additional contacts before ending the informational interview.
If the contact indicates they will forward your résumé to individuals in their network, ask them, “Who are the two most knowledgeable people within your network that I might speak with?” This will allow you to follow up with them directly, and it keeps the ball in your court.
If the contact cannot think of specific individuals, stay proactive. Send a thank you note to tell the person how much you appreciated their assistance. This will also serve as a reminder for the individual to follow through on any commitments they made. Reach out to your contact a few weeks after the interview to ask follow-up questions and inquire if they have additional advice to share. Use their insights to advance your own networking efforts.
When done properly, informational interviews provide inside perspectives on your field and the local job market to help your decision making process (Yes, it is your decision on where to work!). The focus will initially be on information and advice, but you will find it can quickly lead you to key decision makers and hiring managers. And that is exactly where you want to be.