Give your career the inside edge with an informational interview
October 16, 2013
Palms sweating, heart beating fast, sudden inability to remember one’s name: all common symptoms of someone heading for a job interview. But there is one interview that puts the unemployed at the helm: the informational interview.
Adam Park, freelance broadcast and digital production coordinator, has landed many freelance contracts thanks to these interviews. “It’s given me access to a wealth of knowledge that’s helped shape my career,” he says. “On a personal level, it’s given me the opportunity to form bonds with some very incredible people.”
Informational interviews offer a great opportunity to make connections, learn more about a position or company you’re interested in, and get advice on how to get there. It’s a valuable way for those who are unemployed—or employed but looking for a new role—to get closer to their dream job.
How to get the interview
Find someone who has a role you’re interested in or who is the hiring manager for that role. It helps to get introduced through someone in both your networks, but this isn’t necessary.
Email is the ideal approach, with LinkedIn being another useful method. “Best not to put them on the spot by calling,” says Human Resources Consultant and Career Coach Sari Friedman.
As for what to say in your message, keep it simple. Introduce yourself and politely ask if they’d be willing to meet for 20 minutes at their convenience to discuss their job and how they got there.
“Definitely position it as gathering insight and NOT about finding a job,” warns Friedman.
It’s common advice says not to mention the j-word, but Giorgina Bigioni, publisher of The Kit and someone who gives 6 to 10 informational interviews a year, says even that wouldn’t deter her: “I usually say yes regardless. I think it’s a very important thing to do, to inspire, guide and assist people to join our field.”
During the interview
Do your research on the company and the person you’re interviewing beforehand. “Come in with 5 to 10 questions,” Friedman suggests, “not a list too long that may seem overwhelming.” She recommends aiming for the 20-minute mark, at which point you should check to see if the person you’re interviewing would like to wrap up or keep going.
“DO NOT bring a resume,” Friedman advises. And, of course, “Be professional.”
After the interview
Follow up with a thank you note, be it by email or mail. Friedman says it’s at this point that you can attach your resume.
Maybe the biggest mistake candidates make? Not following up. Bigioni always invites candidates to let her know where they end up but “Very few do this. They should. You never know.”