April 9, 2014

The Informational Interview Is Dead

Man sleeps in a waiting room chairsIs the informational interview dead? One expert suggests it may be.

In an article entitled, “8 New Ways to Look for a Job,” Marty Nemko, a former contributing editor for careers at U.S. News, says, “Stop asking for informational interviews. People are sick of being asked. Replace that by being a savvy Googler and searcher of LinkedIn groups.”

Nemko, writing at the Aol.com jobs site, seems to come from the perspective that online networking like LinkedIn is going to work better for some folks than traditional networking. In another Aol jobs post, he writes, “Yes, some of my clients have gotten all their jobs and otherwise boosted their careers thanks to networking. And they tend to be the people who are natural schmoozers online and off — they love the process and embrace becoming LinkedIn Ninjas. Jobs seem to come to them. But for some others, networking has been a waste of time. They go to meets-and-greets. They become LinkedIn ninjas. Yet they derive nothing that helps their career.”

By the way, Nemko seems to like the phrase “LinkedIn ninjas.” According to him, a LinkedIn ninja is someone who, among other traits, has 10 strong recommendations on their profile, meaningfully expands their network, and asks for recommendations for introductions to appropriate contacts at a company where the LinkedIn Ninja wants to work.

It’s that latter point that Nemko seems to suggest could replace the informational interview for the digitally savvy. He writes, “Let’s say you want to work for Apple. Search LinkedIn’s company directory to see if any of your LinkedIn connections work there. Write a short inmail (LinkedIn’s internal email system) asking for an introduction to someone at Apple who might provide some advice on landing a job. Describe the sort of job you’re looking for and why you’re worthy of an introduction.”

He adds other advice as well, including, “You might try posting a Twesume: a 140-character resume on Twitter. Employers like to screen fast and many are looking for social-media-friendly applicants. Sample: Tech PR pro. 16+ years experience both in-house & agency. Looking in LA.”

Twesumes (what an awkward word) are on the rise, according to another Aol.com jobs article. It says, ” … some tech-savvy employers are even refusing to look at traditional resumes or conduct in-person interviews, instead relying on applicants’ postings on Twitter in the pursuit of top talent.”

But don’t give up on that traditional resume just yet, a career expert in that same piece advises. “For job seekers, the best strategy is to utilize social media in the best way that you can and have an updated, professional resume that highlights your skills, career coach Miriam Salpeter says. ‘You don’t want to dismiss any possible way to connect with a networking contact or an employer.'”

Of course not everyone thinks the informational interview is on life support. Yale suggests it is still an effective tool, especially for its undergrads seeking post-college employment.

The Ivy League university offers this advice on how an informational interview can be helpful:

  • It may give you an opportunity to gather first-hand information (research) about career fields you are considering
  • It provides the opportunity for you to expand your network of professional contacts
  • You may receive frank advice about a profession or industry that you will never read in a book
  • You can obtain valuable advice about entering and advancing in a field, as well as ideas for locating contacts or job leads within the profession

The Yale career counseling office also offers some good practical advice if you decide to pursue the informational interview, in spite of what Nemko says.

  • Keep good records of your contacts: Consider keeping a journal or spreadsheet dedicated to recording names, contact information, and notes from your informational interviews, including referrals to further contacts. Also, it is helpful to record the dates on which you sent your thank you note, and subsequent communications.
  • Maintain contact with the individuals you interview. Write follow up letters/emails throughout the year to touch base with your contact and let them know how your career search is progressing and (if applicable) how their advice has worked out.

Read more in Interview

Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping, About.com, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.
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