An informational interview is a meeting with contacts who you think could help you in your job search. Typically, this is done either by providing valuable information or mentorship.
Done well, informational interviews can make you a desirable candidate… and move you ahead of your competition.
Once you’ve decided you want an informational interview, the next step is landing one. Don’t psych yourself out, it’s perfectly doable. Follow these five tips on nail informational interviews like a pro!
1. Comb Through Your Contacts
You might have someone on your contacts list who could be just the person to give you information about your dream job. First of all, decide on the kinds of people who you want to meet, as well as considering how you could meet them. Do you have an old friend from college who works at your dream company? Someone you’re following on Twitter with a contact address? To start identify who you want to get to know, use LinkedIn groups to find relevant contacts, and start attending networking events in your area.
2. Figure Out What You Want to Learn
Before you go to your informational interview, you want to ponder the kinds of questions you want to ask. Do you want to know if your qualifications make you hireable at the company or at a similar company? Do you want to know about the company’s benefits and paid leave? Or do you want to know about current hiring trends in that field? Having a good idea about the questions you want to ask will make your informational interview more productive. During the interview, jot down questions in a notebook or iPad, not on your phone or laptop, so you can maintain eye contact with the interviewee. You want to take enough notes so the interviewee doesn’t have to repeat himself, but you don’t want to take so many notes you look like a reporter.
3. Come Prepared
In your informational interview you don’t want to make the person you’re interviewing do all of the work. Rather than waste that person’s time by asking questions you could have answered yourself by browsing the company website, learn what you can about your interviewee and the company beforehand. Write down notes about the industry, company, and interviewee so you’re prepared. Interviewees will be flattered and impressed that you know so much about her career and the company. Remember, most people like to hang out, and hire, people who remind them of themselves, so coming prepared to discuss your similarities with the interviewee is also important.
4. Be Gracious
The person with whom you had the informational interview is taking time out of his or her busy life to help you. Be enthusiastic during the interview. Remember, this is a casual interview – don’t ask for too much from the interviewee (i.e. don’t ask for a job!). Afterwards, thank them for their time with a physical or electronic thank you note. Once you get home, send a follow-up thank you email to demonstrate how much the interview meant to you. If you show how much you value the person’s time, they’ll be that much more likely to want to help you again – this time, perhaps, by letting you know about job opportunities at their company.
5. Prepare Your Application
If you notice an open position after you’ve had your informational interview, don’t be quick to assume that you’re a shoo-in to be hired. Instead, tailor your application package in a way that reminds the person with whom you had your interview of your good qualities. Start by using our resume templates and resume guide to make sure your materials are appropriate for the hiring process. Next, remind your contact about the details of your meeting so they can remember you.
Afterwards, scan the job posting and your resume through Jobscan. Jobscan ensures keywords on the resume and posting match, which, in turn, signals that you’ve considered how your experience matches the qualifications of the hired applicant.
Informational interviews have plenty of benefits. First, you can learn more about the hiring trends and expectations in your field. Second, you can think about them as an alternate route to learning about open jobs, as employers don’t always advertise every position. Third, you can make sincere connections with individuals you might not otherwise meet, individuals who may be able to help you in your future job search.
Make the most of your informational interview with solid prep, good follow-up, and a well-considered application package.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Jobscan.
About the Author: James Hu earned his bachelor’s of Information Systems and Finance from University of Washington. He is currently the Founder and CEO of Jobscan. James has also enjoyed work experiences at Boeing, Microsoft, Groupon, Kabam Games, and a start-up of his own. Through his work in the United States, China, and Spain/Gibraltar, James truly integrates a global mindset into his career. In his free time, he also enjoys water sports and backpacking. Follow James on Twitter.