While many have heard of informational interviews, there are few job seekers that feel comfortable contacting an employer with such a request.
What kind of questions do I ask? Will I be bothering them? How is it going to help me in the long run?
These are common and very legitimate questions that we hear often. This post is designed to help you develop a clearer understanding of the benefits of an informational interview and the process involved.
First, let’s start by making the distinction between a job interview and an informational interview. A job interview is arranged by a potential employer in response to your job application. It indicates that you are seen as a suitable candidate for the position and are moving on to the next step in the recruitment process. On the other hand, an informational interview is arranged by the job seeker, displaced worker, career changer, recent graduate or aspiring student.
The informational interviews can help develop a deeper understanding of the, company, trends, employer expectations and ideal candidate qualifications. It helps provide a realistic, current perspective of your target industry. Speaking with a local professional can give you a better understanding of ‘next steps’ and provide you with concrete information that can further define your career path. It can also serve as a “reality check” to see if your anticipated career matches your expectations and interests.
More specifically, the informational interview may provide the following benefits:
- Clarifies entry level options and future job prospects for your field
- Highlights the ideal academic expectations for a position
- Outlines how the job has evolved over time
- Reviews the day to day operations
- Offers recommendations for skill development or retraining
- Highlights upcoming trade shows, job fairs or networking events
- Reveals options for volunteer work or unpaid internships
- Provides contact information for local resources and community contacts
- Identifies recruitment platforms used for posting jobs
- Develops industry specific connections
- Reveals current information from industry employers/experts
- Clarifies local requirements and expectations, if you are new to the community or country
- Offers resume feedback to increase future employability
- Opens doors for future prospects
So how does one go about scheduling an informational interview? Honestly, this could well be the easiest part of your job search. With an emphasis only on gaining some insight into the field from a chosen expert, you are merely tapping into their expertise.
Here are some tips we would recommend before contacting an employer to set up an informational interview:
- Determine the most appropriate person in the company for you to interview. While it may be the Owner/Supervisor/Executive Director, you may also consider meeting with someone who is working in the position you are trying to obtain. Get some advice about how they got started, what they enjoy and dislike about their job/industry, and what recommendations they can provide
- Develop a few questions in advance to provide structure and ensure you are not taking up too much of their time
- Research the company prior so you have a good understanding of their structure, niche, goals and career prospects
- Offer to take them out for coffee and stick to a specific time period
- Have a business card and/or resume with you in the event they ask for contact information. While there should be no expectation that you are using the informational interview as a way to apply for work, it is still good to be prepared in the event that there are existing opportunities.
- Follow up with a thank you letter/email to highlight the value of the experience
- Book informational interviews with a few companies in the same industry so you can compare your research results.
When you can fully appreciate the numerous benefits of the informational interview, the next step is to plan your strategy and access all the great information that local employers have to offer.