Informational Interviews for Fun & Profit!

OK, so it's a silly title, but I wanted to grab your attention. Info interviews are a wayOK, so it's a silly title, but I wanted to grab your attention. Info interviews are a way-underused tool for job search and career advancement!

Please excuse the wacky title, but I had to get your attention. Info interviews are a seriously underrated, underused tool for anyone who’s looking for a job.

An informational is not a job interview. While it may be true that one out of 12 informational interviews results in a job offer, focusing on that possibility can make both parties feel tense and inhibit the free flow of conversation.

Instead, the informational is a unique opportunity to build relationship, gain inside information and make your skills known in a low-pressure atmosphere.

(That said, if you’re fortunate enough to be interviewing with someone who could become your next boss – or one of her management peers – then your conversation will be similar to a job interview. Explore the employer’s needs and show how your own experience and skills are a solution. Just don’t expect an offer anytime soon. Be patient, keep in touch, and carry on with your search.)

Anyone who is at all knowledgeable about your target industry, occupation or companies could be a good person to interview. If they don’t have the information you’re looking for, they may refer you to someone else.

Here’s what you’re likely to gain from an informational interview:

Valuable information that can guide your job search.

Here’s an example from my own life: Before discovering my vocation as a career coach, back in the 1990s I wanted to become a corporate trainer. I had no experience in that area.

I obtained an info interview with someone who knew a bit about the field. She tipped me off that there was currently a boom in welfare-to-work training; I could get started there, drawing on my nonprofit background, and then make a move into the corporate world. And that’s exactly what happened. (It was a good experience, but I prefer my current work as a career coach!)

Inside information about your target companies.

Knowledge is power. Information about the culture, priorities and hiring processes of companies you’re interested is essential in a proactive job search – and will make you come across as a savvy candidate.

Professional relationships.

An informational can be the start of an ongoing connection leading to tips, introductions, mentoring and/or friendship.

Employers much prefer hiring someone who has some connection to them or their firm, especially someone referred by an employee. Make yourself known in the employer’s grapevine!

“But why would they make time for me?”

You’d be surprised how often people will say “yes” to your request for an informational. The benefits to them may include:

  • Industry information that may be helpful in their own career development.
  • Expansion of the “candidate pool” for future hires, if they are a manager.
  • Appreciation. It’s flattering being seen as an expert!
  • A chance to “give back” and make a difference for someone.

Have you ever been approached for an info interview? I have, and I’ve usually said yes.

In an upcoming post, I’ll provide tips on how to maximize the power of the informational interview to fuel your job search and career. Stay tuned!