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Often I get asked about non-traditional methods of job-hunting.

Job Boards, Networking events, Referrals,etc. are still prevalent today & will continue to be with more people entering the workforce.

However, I do not need to tell you that traditional job-hunting,i.e applying for jobs on LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. is becoming more and more difficult because of increased competition and Application Tracking systems.

It is always easier to apply to someone who works at a company. But, what if you have a small network? Or you are new to a city and do not have enough contacts that you can leverage?

That is where Informational Interview comes handy.

What is an Informational Interview?

It is a meeting where a potential job-seeker can gain advice on the market, opportunities, industry insights, etc.

The good news is that most people are willing to help others by providing advice. Even if they cannot directly influence the hiring decision, most people are more than willing to give you advice.

Benefits of an Informational Interview

Recruiter Interview

  • These types of meetings will give you a chance to do a reality check on a particular industry or company. A meeting like this can potentially save you months of heartache if you end up in the wrong career or job.
  • Informational Interview helps you build confidence for a real job interview. Like anything, the more you practice something – the better you become.
  • Informational Interview also helps you build your communication skills. You will learn the subtle and right way to ask for a meeting.
  • It is an effective way to grow your network. Sitting down with an experienced individual for coffee or lunch is much more beneficial than having 1000 virtual contacts. Nothing beats the value of a face-to-face meeting.

Key Insights to Keep in Mind about Informational Interview:

  • You (the candidate) are the interviewer. You are the one researching whether a prospective company or industry is right for you. Using this method you have suddenly flipped the dynamics of the traditional job interview wherein you are being interviewed.
  • This is an information collection or Information-Gathering process; not an opportunity to drop your resume. Giving someone your resume puts a subconscious pressure on them, and perhaps this is the reason why many people are unwilling to meet job seekers.
  • This is not an opportunity to sell yourself and why you are the greatest candidate. The other person is meeting you under the context that they will be giving you advice & sharing their wisdom.
  • It is important to be prepared. If someone has agreed to meet with you – then respect their time. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask them. Do not ask them something that you can readily get the answer yourself (for example what is android?)
  • Use the Rule of 20-5 – Ask 5 Questions maximum, and limit the meetings to 20 minutes. Don’t bombard them with tons of questions.
  • Prepare about yourself – know your strengths, know your skills, core values, etc. Be prepared just in case you are asked questions.

The Elements of a Successful Informational Interview

  1. The best way to arrange an Informational Interview is through a mutual acquaintance or a personal referral. This will make the other person more comfortable in meeting with you. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help you get connected with the right contacts.
  2. Alternate ways to arrange an Informational Interview is email. Once you send an email follow-through with a phone call.
  3. Make it clear that you are in the process of making a career decision, and you are gathering information about various industries and options in the marketplace.
  4. Do not mention or indicate that you are looking for a job at their company.
  5. Treat the meeting as you would a regular Job interview. Dress to impress. Dress the same way you would if you are interviewing for a job at the company. Even if you are meeting at a coffee shop dress sharp. It makes a huge difference. Moreover, you come across as a Professional.
  6. As mentioned before, limit the meeting to around 20 minutes. Keep it brief and to the point. Avoid bombarding them with tons of questions. Ask focused questions.
  7. Get personal input – ask them what specific questions about what they like about the company or the industry. You will learn a lot from asking personal questions.
  8. Focus on building credibility. If you come across as professional and trust-worthy, they are more inclined to help you later.
  9. This is worth mentioning again. Don’t leave a resume. If they ask for it, then send it later. Only send a resume if requested.
  10. Thank them when you are concluding the meeting. Also, send them a follow-up thank-you note.

Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview

If you are not sure, what questions to ask – I have compiled a list of TOP 20 QUESTIONS, you can ask during an Informational Interview.

(Choose the Top 5 Questions that you would like answers, and ask only those questions).

  • What training or education is required for this type of work?
  • What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful?
  • What part of the job do you find satisfying?
  • What opportunities for advancement are there in this field?
  • Is there a demand for people in this occupation?
  • What special advice would you give a person entering this field?
  • What are the basic prerequisites for jobs in this field?
  • What professional journals, associations, and organizations would help me learn more about this field?
  • What do you think of the experience I have had so far in terms of entering the field?
  • With the information, you have about my education, skills, and experience, what other fields or jobs would you suggest I research further before I make a final decision?
  • Who do you know that I should talk to next? When do I call him/her may I use your name?
  • What are the current and future demands for people in this occupation?
  • What are the possible salary ranges and benefits for someone in your occupation?
  • How did you get interested in this kind of work?
  • What personal traits are important to be successful?
  • What is a typical chain of command in this field?
  • How long have you been in your current position, and what was your career path to get there?
  • What factors differentiate those who succeed from those who fail?
  • How are people promoted?
  • What are the most common mistakes you see young professionals make early in their careers?

In this article, we have reviewed what an Informational Interview is; what are the potential benefits; some key considerations; how to handle a successful interview; and also examples of some viable questions to ask.

I am also including some Additional Resources you can refer to to learn more about Informational interviews.

All the best with your Job Hunting!!

Written By
Nissar Ahamed is the Founder & CEO of CareerMetis.com. He is also the host of The Career Insider Podcast and the co-host of The C.A.R.E. Podcast

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