Informational Interviews: A Classic Networking Tactic Makes a Comeback

May 6, 20168:15 am388 views

Informational interviews are a great way to get the answers to questions you might have in your job search. Maybe you just graduated with a degree in finance, but you’re not quite sure which area you want to work in.

The informational interview today, hasn’t gone the way of the flip phone, according to a recent Accountemps survey.

In fact, 36 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) polled said these meetings are becoming more common, with nearly one-third (31 percent) receiving informational interview requests at least once a month.

Job seekers should take note – 84 percent of executives said when someone impresses them in a meeting, it’s likely they will alert that person to job openings at the company.

“Informational interviews are the opposite of a typical job interview, in that the interviewee is expected to pose most of the questions,” said Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps.

“To get the most out of the meeting, professionals should come prepared to ask about the company, the industry and a typical career path for someone in that field.”

See: Assessing Candidate’s EQ through Interviews. How Do You Do It?

Here is a list of do’s and don’ts for maximizing informational interviews:

Do Don’t
Pick the right person. Research a few companies or industries in which you are interested. Tools like LinkedIn can help you identify the right contacts to interview. Get discouraged. Landing an actual job interview could take time. But if the informational interview goes well, it could lead to referrals to other contacts or openings.
Be strategic about how you ask for an interview. Ask a common contact for an introduction or send an email or LinkedIn message to start a conversation. If you use the phone, practice what you’ll say if you reach the person or his or her voicemail. Turn it into a job interview. Let the person you are interviewing know about your career interests, but don’t oversell yourself. The purpose of this meeting is to glean information.
Come prepared. This is a business meeting, so dress appropriately. Unlike a job interview, the candidate or job seeker is running the meeting. Prepare a list of questions to ask in advance. Forget to show gratitude. Always send a thank-you note after an interview and keep your new contact updated on your job search and career progress.

Unlike a job interview, where you need to answer questions, you’ll need to prepare a list of questions for the informational interview. Avoid yes or no questions; instead, go for those likely to lead to long, detailed responses, such as these:

  • How did you get your start in this career?
    • What’s your favorite part of your job? Least favorite?
    • What skills do you use the most?
    • What’s a typical day like?
    • Are any trends emerging that you think might affect your job and/or the industry?
    • If you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice on your first day at your job, what would it be?

Also, try to include a few customized questions based on the research you did on the professional’s company and position. For example, you might ask about a recent project, a high-profile client or conferences that have been especially useful.

Driscoll points out that job seekers who arrange these introductory meetings with employers should be ready in case the tables are turned. “The informational interview is not a job interview, but it can quickly turn into one if the executive feels you might be a good fit for a current job opening.”

Also read: Would You Consider Re-Hiring a Former Employee? Welcome Back… or Not?

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