Are you contemplating an executive-level career change? Are you simply curious about the scope and competencies entailed by a particular leadership position? What if I could give you inside information about what it is like working in a particular field, for a particular employer, in a particular region? What would you pay for that type of information? What if you could find out about the day-to-day challenges you may face – or better yet, what the hiring process entails – all before you even applied?
A good informational interview with the right person can provide you with all of this crucial information and pave the way to a coveted position.
I know what you are thinking: “Wait just a minute – how come I have never heard of these ‘informational interviews?’ If they are so great, why isn’t everyone leveraging them?”
You probably have never heard of these types of interviews because they are insider secrets. You will not find them advertised on LinkedIn or Facebook. And, on top of that, attempting to convince a total stranger or busy professional to take vital time out of their day to help you – without any compensation for them, aside from a free coffee, maybe – can be very challenging.
Luckily for you, most people love talking about themselves and their accomplishments. The trick is to sway them by saying the right things. The direct approach is the best approach in this case. This is going to require that you do your homework.
Sure, almost anyone who works for the company you are pursuing can provide you with some great intel, but that person who works for that company in the field, position, or office you are seeking is gold. Capitalize on any and all avenues.
I reiterate: If it were easy to land an informational interview, everyone would be doing it. Persistence is key.
Here are some valuable tips and golden rules regarding informational interviews and how they can help you connect with the hiring manager or tap into the hidden job market:
1. Changing Careers?
Following targeted companies, CEOs, or senior leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter can help you help stay connected with updates, product releases, and new openings.
Aha! New openings. Hiring professionals often advertise employment opportunities on their LinkedIn feeds, and they regularly include their contact information so qualified candidates can easily respond. This provides you with a great avenue for identifying hiring professionals and securing informational interviews.
Keeping in mind the informational interview should be viewed as a way of obtaining insight into the position. It’s not an opportunity for you to ask for employment. The worst thing you can do is burn a bridge before you have even had a chance to cross it.
When you get an informational interview, here are a few things to remember:
- This person has graciously given you their time, so arrive early.
- Remember to be polite, brief (the whole thing should take about 15-30 minutes tops), and engaging.
- At the beginning and end of the informational interview, express your gratitude for the individual’s time.
- Let the person know that you appreciate the time they have given you by sending a thank-you letter within 24 hours of the interview.
Curious about a Potential Opportunity?
Informational interviews can be great ways to gain insight into a position of interest before you commit to jumping ship for a new organization.
Create a list of 2-3 critical questions in advance of the interview. This will help you keep the conversation structured and brief. In short: Be prepared.
Need to Open the Door to a Future Position?
You guessed it: Informational interviews can help you open doors to future opportunities. Let’s say the person you have secured the informational interview with is not the actual hiring manager but someone in human resources with knowledge of the position you are interested in. The impression you leave with this company representative can pave the way for a future referral to the employer!
One final thing to know about informational interviews: It is okay if you do not get to ask all of your questions in the allotted timeframe. You seized an opportunity to leave a good impression. That’s what matters most. Remember that a thank-you letter is a great way to express your appreciation, and it is the easiest way to leave a positive mark on someone who may just help you land your next job.
Joyce Harold is an award-winning resume writer. She operates Resumes by Joyce.