Why You Need Informational Interviews

In a job market where employers are receiving hundreds rather than dozens of resumes for each position, there’s a good chance you may not get a chance to interview for most of the places you apply.  It’s during these tough times that the ever elusive “informational interview” becomes so very important.  The basis of an informational interview is an opportunity for you to get a better sense of the career you are interested in.  It’s really a win-win for both parties.  While you get to learn about a particular industry and get some much needed face time, the person you’re meeting sees it as an opportunity to offer some advice.  Here’s how it should go:

1.  Select a week to schedule all of your “informational interviews”.  If you’re interested in working in D.C., then plan a weeks trip to D.C. and schedule 3 to 4 meetings per day.  

2.  Reach out to everyone you know, friends, family, alumni networks, and try and find people who may be decision makers in specific fields.  If you aren’t able to get access to these people, slowly work your way down the chain of command.  The goal is to talk to people who may have the authority to hire you if they see something they like.

3.  Have a long list of questions.  The purpose of this interview is for you to learn more about them, not for them to learn more about you.  The quickest way to really make a bad impression is to show up and expect them to start asking you things.  Do your research and make sure to at least appear as professional as possible.

4.  Dress to Impress.  Just because this isn’t a real job interview doesn’t mean you can show up in board shorts and a tank top.  Wear professional attire and bring a few resumes to leave with the individual.  If you expect this person to see you as a potential employee, they need to know that you are a serious candidate.

5.  Always, always, always follow up.  The person you met with took the time out of their day to meet with you and offer advice and information about your job search.  Whether it’s a handwritten note or a small gift, make sure to let them know that you’re grateful for their help.  This will leave the interviewer with a great last impression.  

At the end of the day, informational interviews can be a great lead to job opportunities, professional contacts and even job offers.  By seeking an informational interview, more often than not, you will be able to get past the gatekeepers at many of these companies.  Take the time, do your homework and plan accordingly.  Who knows?  That informational interviewer could offer you a job.

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