Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Underutilized Job Search Tool: The Informational Interview - Part 2

As stated in part one of this two part series, an Informational Interview is an interview you schedule with a person currently working or previously worked in an industry, company, or career you are considering. The purpose is to gather critical information from an insider’s point of view. We also covered the goals of the informational interview.

In the second part, we will cover the essential rules of engagement, some sample questions, and share comments we received from Part 1.

Rules of Engagement

• Prepare: Develop a list of questions about the job or the industry you want to learn more about. Research to be sure the answers to the questions you have are not readily available.

• Find an expert & introduce yourself: When you contact the professionals you want to interview, let them know you want to find out more about a career in this field by asking them questions and by getting their opinions.

• Set the Appointment: Agree on the date, start time, and a set duration, usually 30 minutes.

• Be punctual: If the route is new to you, drive the route ahead of time so you are familiar it.

• Ending the Interview:
* Honor the agreed upon time commitment. Even if you have not asked all of your questions, end on time.
* Thank them for their time and all of the information they shared.

• Follow-up:
* Write-up and evaluate the information you received.
* Send thank you notes to everyone with whom you met and include specific to make your appreciation sound more sincere.

• Use the Information: Most important of all, leverage the information you received and the contacts you made.

Sample Questions

• Their Background: How did they get into the business?

• Education: What education, training, and certifications are required or suggested? Are any schools held in higher esteem than others? Where did they go to school?

• The Position: What are the daily duties of the position? What are the best and worst aspects of the position in their opinion? What other career areas do they feel are related to this work? What experience (volunteer, intern, other) would they recommend for someone entering this field? What are some employers who recruit people for this field? What are the most important requirements for this position? What else should you know when considering this position as a career?

• The Industry: What are some outside influences that could affect the company and industry? What do they believe will be the future of the industry (ex. technology, trends)?

• Things NOT to do: Do NOT ask for a job, do NOT ask if they are hiring, and do NOT ask for an interview. People who confuse an informational interview with a job interview make it less likely professionals will agree to another one, ruining it for other job seekers.

Comments from Readers on Part 1:

• I agree that it is an underutilized tool simply because most people don't know about it. In the resources I've read by the experts, the informational interview is essential.
• Very good networking tool. Instead of the pressures and formality of job interview, the informational interview allows the job applicant to pick the brain of someone in the industry. They, in turn, try to think how they could use an applicant within their own company. If they have a job, the informational interview quickly turns into a job interview. If they don't, they usually can think of a name or two of someone who might be hiring.
• I agree and have used this approach many times with good success.
• Not only is the informational interview useful in gathering info regarding an industry, but I have found it to be an indispensable tool in building my network.

Thank you for your comments.

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