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Informational Interviews

Posted on 25 August 2008

If your job plan consists of simply showing up at the career office with your resume during recruiting fair you can pretty much plan on landing in consulting or financial services, the only two industries that recruit widely on campuses nationwide. Sound unappealing? Overcome your laziness, pick up the phone and schedule some informational interviews.

These interviews can provide you with “inside information” about career fields, industries, and specific organizations and companies.

The contacts and experts that you meet throughout the “Informational Interview” stage of your job search can become an integral part of your professional network. Not only can these professionals be of assistance to you now, as you gather information to help you with your job search, they can also play an influential role at other times during your career. Sometime in the future – when you are well established professionally – you will undoubtedly return the favor to younger job seekers. Informational interviews require that you do a fair amount of investigative research prior to your meeting; however, it is well worth the effort.

Informational interviewing can actually be fun. It’s an opportunity to meet some very interesting people and to learn more about the fields that you are considering. Many people have even gotten job offers as a result of an informational interview. Networking is one of the most powerful means of finding a great position. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding Informational Interviews.

Why should I conduct informational interviews?

  • To obtain career information that you can’t easily find from other sources, such as publications and the Web.
  • To learn more about what it takes to break into a career field and the skills you’ll need to be successful in that field.
  • To gather inside information on job opportunities, current and future industry trends, and a company’s competitors (all of which can help you ace the real thing).
  • To get your resume critiqued for its marketability in the industry and discover what strengths you should “sell” in job interviews.
  • To receive valuable feedback on your education, training, and experience and get suggestions as to other skill sets you should acquire.
  • To obtain the names of two or three other people your contact would recommend seeing for additional information and advice.

How can I best prepare for informational interviews?

  • Talk to a career counselor who can help you explore and examine a variety of occupations and industries based on your interests.
  • Narrow down your targets to three occupations so you’ll have a clear focus.
  • Conduct research on these fields (Vault Reports and Wet Feet Press are good places to start).
  • Compile a list of all of your contacts, as well as targeted industry experts with whom you would like to talk.
  • Develop a list of questions that you want to have answered during the course of an interview.

What are some dos and don’ts along the way?

Remember that you’re not looking for a job during an informational interview, but gathering research on career fields and opportunities.

  • Do your homework. Learn all you can about the field, the organization, its competitors, and the person you’re interviewing.
  • Always make a half-hour appointment – it’s often easier to get someone’s time if they know it will be a quick meeting.
  • Be ready to manage the interview – you requested it.
  • Pay attention to everything you hear and see. You’ll pick up clues about the organization and its culture.
  • Politely ask your host to comment on your resume. This is a good opportunity to get feedback and to showcase your resume.
  • Exchange business cards. It’s important that you have a simple card to exchange – a card can serve as a memory jogger.
  • Be polite and send a thank you note.

Keep in touch. Always inform your contacts as to your progress. Keeping your contacts alive is crucial, especially if they’ve been helpful.

Let your contacts know where you’ve landed. People want to know about your success, so send your new business card and sincere thanks.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Thank You Notes says:

    Great post! My job is in the entertainment industry, which is very competitive. Since most work in my field is on a job by job basis scheduling these interviews during slow times is such a great idea! They say it’s about who you know, and what a great way to get to know people and learn VALUABLE information at the same time.

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