Imagine if the first interview with your dream company wasn’t a traditional job interview. Imagine having the chance to talk with someone and learn what that job you want really entails, and what day-to-day life at that company really looks like. Sound worthwhile? ABSOLUTELY.
An informational interview has a number of benefits:
- It can help you decide if the company or job is a good fit.
- It can give you inside knowledge on how to get hired.
- Most importantly, it can get you the job.
Before you begin, it is important to recognize that an informational interview is a two-way street. It gives you great information, but it is also a chance for a company to evaluate you with no strings attached. Make a good impression and a job offer may follow. Make a bad impression — it’s probably not worth applying.
So how do you get one of these lucrative informational interviews? It’s really not that hard.
1. The Job Fair Approach
Everyone knows that job fairs these days are more about getting information than getting hired on the spot. But how much in-depth information can you get in a loud auditorium with five job seekers lined up behind you? And does that recruiter really know what your job will be like every day?
Ask the recruiter to put you in touch with someone within the company who works in your specific field. Tell them you would like to speak with them about their experiences and the opportunities they have been exposed to.
Chances are you will be put in touch with a mid-level to senior-level person in your field rather than the guy who was hired last week. That means they can answer your questions AND they may be in a position to recommend you as a potential hire. (Read: 5 Biggest Networking Mistakes to Avoid)
2. The LinkedIn Approach
The value in LinkedIn doesn’t simply come from adding someone as a connection. It comes from the interaction that happens after a connection is made. Use LinkedIn as a search engine. Seek out people with a career profile or history that looks like your dream and try to find something in common as a conversation starter.
Chris is a transitioning Navy lawyer who wants to work for a law firm in Boston. He searches LinkedIn for people who listed “law,” “Boston” and “Navy” as part of their profile and reached out referencing the military background they had in common.
Once the connection was made, he followed up with an email asking to speak with them about their experiences and recommendations. Chris drove to Boston for a number of informational interviews and is now happily employed by one of the firms he approached.
3. The Classic Approach
No one writes letters these days … or do they? This method is regularly used by college students and is just as effective for someone transitioning out of the military. Think about it. People get emails all the time. How many are currently in your inbox … still awaiting action. A letter addressed to you shows effort and dedication.
Craft a business letter, research who you want to speak with, and send it to them. Outline your background, explain that you are exploring a range of opportunities within that field, and ask for 10 to 15 minutes of their time.
Whichever approach you choose in seeking out an information interview, remember that you are NOT asking for a job or if there are current job vacancies. You are asking someone for their time and their advice. As the interview concludes, ask for their recommendations on who else you should speak with, and don’t forget to send a thank you note via mail or email.
Try one of these approaches and you will be surprised how much you can learn, and how effective the informational interview can be.