I just arranged an interview for you at a fantastic company in the industry you’re looking to work. I should mention, though: the employer does not have a job to offer you.
At this point in your job search, it may seem odd to interview where a position doesn’t even exist. What do you stand to gain? Why should you go if you should not ask for, nor will you likely be offered, a job?
This thought process is exactly why the informational interview – one of the most powerful weapons in your job search arsenal – remains, for many, largely ignored. And yet this type of interview offers several benefits:
- Networking is your most important tool in your job search. Impress the interviewer, and they may become an important addition to your network – and might refer you to people who are hiring!
- Because this is not a job interview, you won’t be asked the standard interview questions like “what is your greatest weakness”. Instead you’ll be able to gather information beneficial to your job search like the best skills for a person in the position you want; company and industry information from an insider; and perhaps some high-level resume critique.
- Because this interview isn’t about you getting a job, some of the pressure is off. Think of it less as an interview, and more as a meeting. You must be professional, of course, but you can relax a bit more than you likely would during a job interview. Work on building your interviewing confidence!
- The interviewer is participating as a kind of favor to you – taking their time to help. Be sure to have prepared quality questions ahead of time. With the right set of questions, you will gain a lot of information.
Getting an informational interview is substantially different than how you secure a job interview. For starters, companies don’t post informational interview opportunities on the web, or on their company’s Careers page.
Getting an informational interview is about selling yourself, and networking:
- Use your personal network to find referrals to professionals in your target industry, or even a specific company. Have a professor, LinkedIn contact, former boss or colleague speak with a friend of theirs on your behalf.
- If you prefer to inquire more directly, ask your network member for the contact information of their referral. Approach the potential interviewer confidently via phone or email; be sure to mention the referral source: “Hello, I was referred to you by Bob Johnson. He said you might be a great person to contact regarding an informational interview.”
- Remember that the person you contact has little, if anything, to gain from the interview. They are taking their time as a favor to you, or to their colleague who referred you. Be respectful of their time when scheduling the interview. And don’t get discouraged if you receive some rejections to your requests.
The informational interview is a vastly under-utilized job search resource. This tool can boost your interviewing confidence in a relaxed atmosphere, build your professional network and, in some cases, directly lead to in-turn referrals for job interviews.
Stop ignoring the power of informational interviews – and put yourself that much farther ahead of your job-seeking competition.
About the Author: Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team and is instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). Dave serves as YouTern’s Content Manager and Social Media Community Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter!