We’ve all been on job interviews, and many of you have interviewed others for a job. Are you familiar with an informational interview? With this powerful research and job search tool, the roles are reversed. The job seeker is the one conducting the interview, with several goals in mind. First is to learn about new fields and careers and how the job seeker’s skills and experiences can be used in new ways. The second is to develop the candidate’s professional network, and third is to ultimately land a job. If you feel ready for a change, but are unsure what direction to take, informational interviews could give you the answer.
Begin by making a list of people you know who could give you information on a potential new field. In addition, include individuals who know you well and have a network, even if you don’t think they’ll have the information you need. They can always refer you on to someone who may. Contact the individuals and request a few minutes of their time. Informational interviews are short, under 30 minutes. They’re best done in person, so a stronger connection can be made, but a telephone interview can be effective, especially when you know the person. Make it clear that you are not asking for a job, just their expert opinion and ideas. Most people are eager to help if they know they won’t be put on the spot with a plea for a job.
When you meet, you will direct the interview, so have your questions ready. Ask the subject matter expert (SME) about their job, company, and industry; trends and developments in their field; possible jobs you could explore; and so forth. Get their card and ask for referrals of other people they could contact. If there is a specific company you’d like to learn about, ask them if they know anyone there. Be sure to ask the SME if you could use their name when you make the contact, as doing so will usually open the door for you.
If you want the person to see your resume, here’s how to present it. At the end of your time together, mention that you just revised your resume and would like their opinion on it. Over ninety percent of the time when I’ve done this, the individual asked me if they could keep it. It wasn’t unusual for them to pass it along to someone with a job opening.
After the interview, follow any advice they gave you and send a thank you note, letting them know how you made out. Keep the communication open and look for an opportunity to do something for them. It’s a kind thing to do, and it will help solidify the relationship and keep you in their mind.
I’ve used informational interviews a number of times, and I frequently recommend them to my clients and students. Give the process a try, and let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
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