The Informational Interview, part II

Career

A few days back I wrote the Informational Interview, part I. There, I addressed what the informational interview was,

the benefits of conducting one (hopefully more), what it allows you to do, and gave you some topics to discuss. Since this is such an important part in any professional career, I will talk about what goes into setting an interview up, conducting it and the process of what to do after. Again, this is an informational interview and not an opportunity to ask for a job, although opportunities may present themselves.

Etiquette

“Can I ever ask for a job during an informational interview?” NEVER! Asking for a job on an informational interview is one of the worst things you can do. The idea is to gather information to decide if that career or experiences are what you are looking for. The interview is not a scheme or trick to get you into the door.

Contacts

You may be asking yourself, this sounds great, but how do I find the contacts for the informational interview? Usually you will talk with a person you don’t know personally but who has been referred to you. Ask friends, family, colleagues, faculty or even former employers for referrals. I just had a friend email a bunch of his old high school buddies who are in coaching and teaching for a recent college grad I have. Within the first hour, he had an informational interview set up. It’s that easy sometimes.

How It Works

The interview works best if it is done face-to-face. Ideally, it’s in the setting that you are interested in working (i.e. investment banking, marketing, accounting, web developer, etc.). However, it can also be done over the phone, email, or on the internet (we just had an informational interview with Matt Coddington via email/internet, read it for a good sample interview and you can download the actual questions and answers on the “Downloads” widget on the right).

Setting It Up

A written request is probably your best bet. You can email it to them, then follow up with a phone call. I don’t really use the phone call too often since everyone I email is pretty good about responding. To me it feels a bit too pushy, but others may prefer that method. The advantage of the letter is that it serves as a preliminary introduction and helps explain your purpose.

How Can I Best Prepare

Preparation is the key to success. You should prepare in advance as you would a traditional interview.

  1. Do your homework and research the career area and organization in which the person you are interviewing is affiliated.
  2. Review the company website.
  3. Know your interests, skills, values, and how they relate to the career field represented by the person you are interviewing.
  4. Prepare an opening statement of who you are and your interest in the field.
  5. Dress appropriately if meeting face-to-face in interview attire. You want to give a first good impression and look like someone who could be an asset to the profession.

 

After The Interview

Be sure to send a formal thank you letter to the person you interviewed. A nice touch would be to share with them the results of any project or suggestion discussed during the interview and let them know what steps you have taken to apply the advice they gave you. Report back to anyone who gave you a lead. This is just a common courtesy, it helps them stay involved in your career. Make sure to stay in contact with everyone involved in the interviewing process.

Lastly, if you do decide to pursue the career, you may want to send out a “feeler” letter saying something along the lines of “if you hear of any job opportunities, I am enclosing my resume and would appreciate hearing from you.”

 

2 thoughts on “The Informational Interview, part II

  1. Good interview skills lead to good negotiation/advertising skills later.
    I was always excellent with interviews, and now as an individual freelancer/businessman, the skills still help, and they only continue growing.
    My greatest asset for my strength in face-to-face scenarios (including interviews, proposals, or just randomly meeting new clients) are confidence, a VERY VERY broad range of knowledge of many different things, and being strongly opinionated.
    It often seems to not matter whether my opinion is in line with theirs or not – people (especially smart and successful businessmen) often look for traits, NOT specific opinions about how things should be done etc.

  2. Shortly after the interview one can send a thank you letter for showing the appreciation of having been invited for the interview. This should also be taken as an opportunity to mention anything that has been left out during the interview.
    I found this resource which may be helpful:
    thank you letters info

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.