It’s time to talk about informational interviews!
Informational interviews are a great asset when on the job hunt- you gain valuable information about the industry you are trying to join, and when prepared, you get your foot through the door which can benefit you on your job search!
The key word here is preparation…
Harvard Business Review released a wonderful article highlighting how to make the most out of an Informational Interview. Here are some of the most important points it made:
Before you go into an informational interview ask yourself “Have I done adequate research to make myself more credible? Will I be able to talk about the most important trends?” You don’t want to waste someone’s time asking them questions you can easily find the answers to on google or spend the entire time talking about yourself. Respect the time of the person you are meeting with by being well prepared and informed before going into the interview.
Set the tone:
At the beginning of the meeting, reestablish your connection to the person you are meeting with, how were you connected in the first place? Doing so will leave a positive impression and help set the tone for the interview to come. You will also want to keep your introduction short (3 minutes max); informational interviews are not a time to try and pitch yourself to an employer, these are meant for you to absorb information about an industry you are interested in. Consider their time constraints; if you run out of time you may ask if they have more time, but ultimately respect their time which will show you are true to your word and reflect positively on you.
Think like a Journalist:
Prepare a list of questions ahead of time, you don’t have to stick with them but it is better to have questions than to sit there confused and risk offending the person.
John Lees, a UK-based career strategist recommends a framework of five questions:
Test your hypotheses:
- How did you get into this line of work?
- What do you enjoy about it?
- What’s not so great about it?
- What’s changing in the sector?
- What kinds of people do well in this industry?
Don’t be afraid to ask bold questions about the industry, after all you are in this interview to learn about the good and the bad of the industry. Don’t shy away from asking questions like “What are the worst parts of your job?” or “Based on what you know about my background, what do you see as my weaknesses?” Consider all feedback valuable information but get additional opinions when one sour person tries to limit your career options.
The follow up:
Thanking a person with an email is a must, however consider sending them a handwritten letter as well. In this thank-you letter you can address how the person was helpful to you and led you to a certain outcome in your job search. Don’t ever ask them for a favor or even for help getting a job, just let them know you’re applying and ask about any quick thoughts or advice they may have for you. Be respectful, don’t ambush them with favors, it will benefit you more than you might expect.
Play the long game:
Lastly, you want to build a relationship with the person you interviewed with. Invite them to upcoming networking events, or forward a link to a relevant article. Prove to them that you are helpful too, you aren’t just there to take information and advice away and give nothing in return. Read the book they suggested, join the professional organization they would not stop talking about, demonstrate that you listened and that their advice mattered to you. You should take the long view and develop your new professional connection, it could turn into something great.
With all of this advice in mind, remember the Career Center is here to help you! We provide the tools needed to help familiarize yourself with the process of informational interviews. Check out the Career Center’s website at https://careercenter.tamu.edu/
to learn more about all of our interviewing checklists and tips. Come see us in person (Koldus 209) and find out more about what you can do to make yourself stand out in your industry!
Success starts with you!
Happy Job Hunting
- Written by: Annabel Irvine ’19
- Information sourced from: Harvard Business Review “How to Get the Most Out of an Informational Interview” written by Rebecca Knight