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The Informational Interview

Published
January 1, 2009
Publication
Bottom Line Personal
Source
Richard Nelson Bolles
Print
152
How it can help you get a job in tough times

Looking for a job is painful under any circumstances, but especially difficult during times of economic turmoil. With unemployment expected to climb to more than 7%, finding a job may seem close to impossible. One effective strategy is to conduct informational interviews.

WHAT IT IS

An informational interview is different from a job interview. In a traditional job interview, you speak to someone with the authority to hire you about a specific job opening and your qualifications.

Informational interviewing is just that — gathering information. Instead of talking to employers, you talk to workers in jobs similar to the one you want. In effect, you are mentally trying on jobs to see if they fit you.

Doing informational interviews before you apply for actual jobs is a good way to build your pool of contacts… learn about companies that interest you… become familiar with the culture of an organization… discover where you might be a good fit… and get on the radar for unannounced vacancies (sometimes called the “hidden job market”).

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If you are thinking about changing careers, informational interviewing is an excellent way to find out about other fields. You can screen careers before you make a switch.

HOW TO DO IT

Most people are happy to be interviewed as long as you don’t present a threat to their job or impose too much on their time. How to go about it…

Collect names of potential interviewees from former coworkers, members of professional associations, friends and family, your college alumni association, local community colleges and networking sites, such as LinkedIn.com.

Arrange the interview. In a phone call, e-mail or letter, say, “I’m trying to identify jobs where my skills might be a good fit. I would like to meet with you to gather some information about what it’s like to do the work you do. I don’t need more than 20 minutes of your time.”

Important: Don’t pretend you are setting up an informational interview if what you really want is a job interview. If you use this technique to get in the door, you will be seen as manipulative. You also will be casting unfair suspicion on other people who use the technique legitimately.

Ask questions. These include the following…

What do you like best about working here?

What do you like least about this job?

How did you get this kind of work?

Always end interviews by asking, “Who else would you recommend I talk to who is in this line of work? Do you know them? Could you call them and tell them you recommended that I talk to them?” Then set up interviews with the people they suggest.

Send thank-you notes the same day as the interview. Ask the person you interviewed for his/her business card. Then send an e-mail so that the person you talked to has a prompt response from you. Also send a handwritten note to arrive a day or two later. Do this for any interview you have. Many job seekers ignore this very simple advice. Following it will help you stand out from the crowd.

Source: Richard Nelson Bolles, a leader in the career development field for more than 35 years. His groundbreaking book, What Color Is Your Parachute? (Ten Speed), is the best-selling career book of all time, with 10 million copies sold. He lives in Danville, California. www.jobhuntersbible.com.