Incorporating informational interviews into your job search can be a powerful strategy for landing the ultimate job. What is an informational interview? It’s a job interview in which there is no real job opening, but granted to a job seeker on the basis of simple networking, relationship building and to foster goodwill. These meetings can help you learn more about a company to determine if the culture is a good fit. You can also cultivate connections within the company to gain a referral for you when the right job opportunity opens. And, using informational interviewing is a great way to build visibility since the other person is evaluating you as well!
But before we dive in, let’s talk more about how informational interviews are different from regular job interviews.
Typically, recruiters won’t reach out to you when the company is not actively looking to hire. That’s why you should be the one to take the initiative by contacting someone in your network. Informational interviewing sessions are usually more casual, like lunch, a coffee break, or an after-work happy hour.
How to Get the Informational Interview
The best way to secure an appointment is by reaching out through your network. If you don’t know anyone, start attending networking events to meet people. You can always try reaching out to strangers via LinkedIn. However, this method isn’t very effective as most people are reluctant to have coffee with strangers.
If you know someone within a company or have someone who can introduce you to the right people, that’s different. When I graduated from college and was hunting for my first industry job, one of my instructors introduced me to several of her colleagues. When I drove to Los Angeles all the way from San Francisco, I was able to tour five major studios. Each person showed me around, introduced me to their co-workers, described the company culture in detail and some even fed me lunch. I was lucky. But I was also proactive and willing to go out of my way to make this happen.
How to Ask
Here’s how to ask: “You many not currently have a position open for a ______, but I’m hoping to learn from experts in the field. Would you be available to help me by having an informational interview? I would love a chance to ask some questions I have about your role and learn more about your success.
Be Prepared with Questions
Your end goal is to get a job. But along the way, you do want to gain information! Prepare with questions you will ask your subject: What was your first job? How did you land your first job? Where did you start your career? What advice do you have for someone entering the field today…?
A Few More Suggestions…
Show up prepared as if you were going to an actual interview. While informational interviews are typically more casual, don’t let your guard down completely. Remember, they are still evaluating you as a potential fit for the company. It is best to stay alert and pay attention to cues.
It also matters who you hold your informational interview with. You don’t have to meet with the company president unless you are going for a senior executive role. Ideally, someone in management or a role slightly above yours would be best. But then, of course, sometimes the only choice we have is to meet with the person who says yes.
Have Patience with the Process
Don’t get discouraged if after having multiple informational interviews you still don’t have the job of your dreams right away. This is a long-term practice. It takes time to build momentum. Once you have it though, you will discover that it was worth all your efforts.
Discover more informational interview tips here.