If you are joining the workforce for the first time, or have been out of the workforce for a while, or you’ve been thinking about changing careers, or have been looking for a new job for some time, but haven’t had success yet, it may be time to do some informational interviewing. Just like the old west prospector, you will be in search of gold (or in this case, valuable leads and specific information) and you may have to turn over lots of rocks and dig lots of holes in the process!
The informational interview is a very specific and targeted part of the job hunt that is closely related to the standard job interview but with a number of unique features. The informational interview is initiated by you, and as such, you have a great deal of control over the process. You can choose who you want to speak with and what you hope to discover during the process.
The informational interview is especially useful if you are
- About to join the workforce for the first time
- A recent graduate
- Leaving the military
- Being released from incarceration
- Rejoining the workforce after raising a family
- Rejoining the workforce after having cared for an ailing family member or friend
No matter what your situation, you are looking for assistance in getting hired, and will be drawing on the knowledge, experience and advice of others who can help you in this endeavor. The process will require a certain amount of humility and determination on your part since you will have to ask others to help you when you have nothing to give them in return! In essence, you will be relying on the good will of others (remember this when you are in the position to help someone else in the future).
If you know what type of work you are seeking, you will be able to narrow your prospecting by seeking out those within that particular industry. If, however, you just need some general job-hunting advice, you may want to focus on those contacts in your social or professional networks.
Begin by making a list of the people you already know who you think can help you. Contact them and inform them that you are seeking their advice on obtaining employment (be as specific as you can) and ask if they would be willing to meet with you for 20 minutes.
Once the informational interview is set up, be prepared to
- Ask specific questions relating to your particular situation.
- Ask follow-on questions based on the discussion
- Ask for the names of others that you could speak with
- Ask the person if they would be willing to serve as a reference for you
- Ask the person if they would take your resume and provide feedback
Don’t forget to follow up with a thank you note, just as you would following a formal job interview.
Informational interviews can also be done over the phone if you are unable to meet face-to-face, but no matter how you arrange it, the informational interview can be a rewarding first step in the search for your next job.