What if your job was lost today? Would you need a new job within a week of losing it? What if you could do it?
What if you simply needed advice on a difficult career decision? Are there people you can ask?
What if you were looking to make a career shift, such as switching industries? Are there people you can call for assistance?
Informational interviews are the key to solving all these problems.
Informational interviews: What are they and how do they work
Most people have heard the terms mentoring and networking used as buzzwords for employment. But, did you know that informational interviews are also known? Although informational interviews can make the difference between a successful career and one that is stagnant, not everyone knows how they work.
Here’s how an informational interview looks at a high level:
- Find someone who is doing the job that interests you.
- Invite them to coffee, or call them to chat.
- Ask the key questions and get insider information about the job
- Use what you have learned to make informed decisions about your career.
Simple, right? As long as you know the rules, it is simple.
- This is not about a job. An informational interview will not get you a new job.
- You are there to learn. This type of interview is designed to get to know the person, their work, and what they enjoy about their job.
- They listen, and you ask them questions that are important to you both.
Informational interviews can lead to more job opportunities, provided you ask the right questions and conduct them properly.
Let’s show you how to use this powerful tool for job searching.
How to ask for an interview and who to ask!
Knowing how to ask and who to ask is one of the most difficult things to do to get an informational interview. A good informational interview will only be useful if it targets someone who you can see yourself in, in a field you are interested in, or on whose team you might be interested.
It’s going to be coffee and Q&A without any real purpose. It’s not the purpose of the exercise, though it is nice.
Be sure to know the names of all those you are inviting before you send any invites. These are some tips to help you narrow down your options:
- Find the right type of person to ask. This could be someone you already know from your network in a specific field, company, or job. You could also cold-call (or email) the person to whom you are requesting.
- Are you not sure who to call? Take a look at your network contacts on social media outlets such as LinkedIn. These sites can be a gold mine for building contacts in the workplace. It is possible to find someone who fits your ideal job or in your preferred field.
- Are you having trouble finding the right person among your connections? Do not let this stop you. Reach out.
- Search and find a few people to interview for an exploratory job. This can be done using a Google search or a social network platform. It’s amazing how many people will be willing to talk about their jobs with you by taking a short call or having a coffee break.
Once you have identified the person/people you wish to speak with, you can simply send a short email asking for a meeting.
These requests can be formulated however you like, but it’s best to keep the email simple.
“Hi, Brad! Kelly Smith suggested that I contact you. My name is Ann and I’m interested in learning more about the role or field. If you are open to the idea, I would be happy to receive some advice on this field or role. Are you available to meet with me for coffee in the next two weeks? This will allow me to learn more about your company, the role, and the field.
Word-for-word email templates can be helpful if you don’t know what to write. All the hard work is done for you.
It’s possible to fail a few times.
How to ask the right questions in an interview
After you have been offered a job, it is important to prepare for your interview. This begins with preparing a list of questions you want to ask. This is a crucial step if you want more information about a company or role.
It is important to begin an informational interview with one goal: To learn more about the other person and their feelings about it. These tips will help you ask the right questions.
- Don’t leave out questions you can find the answers to on Google. There are many sources of information online about company benefits, salaries, and career paths.
- Ask those questions that are more personal. Ask the person what career path they followed to reach their current position. Also, ask about any special certifications or educational programs that might have made them stand out.
- Be open-ended in your questions. Don’t ask for yes/no questions even in follow-ups. This will immediately put a damper on the conversation.
- Focus your questions on the people you are interested in telling you about their career and path to the position.
These questions are open-ended and well-phrased, which makes the interviewer feel more comfortable. These questions are a sign you respect the expertise and experience of your interviewee, which is essential if you wish to build a network relationship.
These are some examples that you can use as a guide to crafting your questions.
- Good question: “I noticed that your industry job focuses on the following topics on your LinkedIn. This seems like an exceptional opportunity in this field. How did you discover an opening? ? It sounds like something that I would also like to pursue in my future.”
- A not-so-good question is: “You work at that’s the industry I want to work in. Is it possible to get a job with your company?
- You have a question. What steps did you take to reach your current earning potential? Are there any tips you can offer those just beginning in this field?
- The not-so-good question is: “How much do you make?”
- You have a great question.
- Question: “What are you most unhappy about your job?”
Pay attention to the subtle differences. Good questions are open-ended and inquisitive. Questions that are too specific and closed to the interviewee are not good. They can make them feel uncomfortable and could lead to a poor interview.
Avoid these big mistakes during informational interviews
Two pieces of the informational interview puzzle are knowing who and what to ask. It takes a lot more than just knowing how to conduct an informational interview well.
You must avoid making the common mistakes that are so obvious if you want to be successful in informational interviews. These are:
1. Late arrivals or too early
You can be sure that your interviewee is busy and has many responsibilities. This means that you must make every effort not to take the time of your interviewee for granted.
You shouldn’t be late for your meeting. This is a common mistake. However, you mustn’t arrive too early, especially if the meeting is at their workplace. You should not arrive earlier than five minutes before your meeting or you could endanger them (or embarrass you by showing up at a meeting you were not invited to).
2. Looking for a job
You may not want to be employed by this person. You may be interested in their dream job but you should not ask for a job. You’ve made it clear in your first email that you don’t want anything more than the person’s insight and time. Don’t change the script when you meet in person.
A job offer could grow organically if you present yourself professionally and leave a positive impression. You are not there to interview for a job, so don’t expect a job offer to grow from your interactions. It may happen. Great. Even if it doesn’t happen, you still have a lot to gain from their insight and time.
3. The conversation is yours
You may find it tempting to chatter on and off if you are nervous or have awkward pauses. You may also feel the need for commentary after each question has been answered. Do not do this. Instead, ask and listen.
The goal of an informational interview is not to tell you everything about a job or company, but to learn as much as possible from someone who has worked in that position. During an interview, you should spend about 90% of your time listening and not talking. You’re on the wrong track if you find yourself talking more than you listen.
4. Asking for introductions
Your interviewee may be a great candidate because of their connections in the industry that you are interested in. You may know someone who is a CEO at a company, or they might have a friend or acquaintance who works in recruitment for a large firm. This is all great, but you should not forget that you are looking for introductions.
Talk about the interviewee, not their connections. Do not ask for introductions to people in their network, former companies, or their circle. It was your request to meet with them to discuss the role and their experience. You are not attempting to meet someone who could benefit you more.
5. Skip the thank you
People make the most common mistake of not saying thank you after an informational interview. Keep in mind that the person who met you took time from their busy schedule to help you. You should be grateful for such a sacrifice.
To thank them for their time, send a card, email, or other written communication. Let them know that you appreciate their advice and help. Do this quickly. This shows your professionalism and leaves you with a good impression.
Last tip for informational interviews
You must ask the right questions and avoid making big mistakes in an informational interview. However, it is also important not to think too much about it. This process is not about trying to do everything, but about learning and growing while networking. This is too much pressure to manage by one person.
Relax, be open to listen, engage and have fun. You’ll find that you are more likely to get the information you need and make new connections. You’ll end up focusing too much on the next question or the best way to phrase them, which can lead to missing important information and advice.