Friday, January 25, 2013

6 Steps to the Informational Interview Process

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Another instrument for your job search toolbox is the Informational Interview.  What you may wonder is an informational interview? It is an unofficial meeting with an employer (or industry expert) to discuss your interest and the opportunities for a specific career or position. For instance, you may have experience in sales and are interested to know if a career shift towards business makes sense. My clients find that these conversations quite helpful in narrowing their focus and identify previously un-considered factors.  The next question is, "How you do these as effectively as possible?"
  1. Complete the necessary informational interview research. Review various job board websites to discover companies hiring for this position/industry/market. Once you have identified the audience, do company specific research to find out more about their sales, products, niche, business history, etc.
  2. Consider the use of social media sites or other networking groups to see find someone in your sphere who works at the particular company or can make a meaningful introduction so you can REQUEST an informational interview.
  3. Send a personal note requesting 30 minutes of their time. Identify yourself and the impetus for the request in your note. Be straightforward.  Let the person know that you are considering a career move and are looking for an industry expert to chat with regarding...  Make sure you refer to the commonality in your connection, e.g. you are alumni, have a mutual contact, you volunteer for the same organization, etc.
  4. Exhibit your knowledge of the company and industry by asking thoughtful and revealing questions throughout the informational interview.
  5. If you believe there may be a good fit, announce to this person that the conversation has been enormously insightful to your search for a new career.  Mention that you are going to consider applying for the available position. You might discover that your new contact is interested in assisting you.
  6. Make certain to grab the interviewees' card so you can send a hand written thank you note and maybe a small gift to demonstrate your appreciation.
An Informational interview can generate incredible impact.   The situation allows you to both gather helpful information and continues to expand your personal network. The process may feel awkward, but this kind investment of "emotional risk" may continue to payoff for years to come. In addition, you are actively angling the playing field in your direction.

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