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    Categories: Getting Interviews - Search Strategy

The Holy Grail of Informational Interviews: Meeting with a Hiring Manager

How can you get a job interview ahead of all the competition? By doing an informational interview with manager before there’s an opening.

In my May 18 post, The Informational Interview – It’s Not a Thing! I wrote that there are three different types of informational interviews – the Career Exploration Informational, the Company Insider Conversation and the Hiring Manager Meeting. The third type is the most likely to result in a job.

If you’re thinking of pursuing such meetings, you probably have a few questions.

Won’t I get a job faster if I focus on applying to current openings?

In most cases,  no. If you have lots of well-placed contacts and can get referred into interviews, great. Otherwise, you need to develop those contacts, and it’s hard to do that at the last minute. Informational interviews allow you to build those contacts and relationships ahead of time. And as for applying to jobs without a connection, only about 20-25% of jobs are filled that way.

Why would they want to meet with me when there’s no open position?

Many hiring managers find it valuable to meet with prospective job candidates even when they don’t have an open position. Informational interviews allow them to develop a “bench” of qualified people in advance.

That way, a future opening can be filled more quickly and easily – perhaps by hiring you.

By “hiring manager,” do you mean that they’re currently hiring?

No, because if they’re currently hiring for your position you probably won’t be able to get an informational interview with them! Instead you’ll have to compete with many other candidates for a phone screening with Human Resources, then, hopefully, a job interview with the manager. Instead, talk to managers who don’t yet have an opening. Because then when they do, you’ll be way ahead of the crowd.

How do I get this kind of informational interview?

Mainly, through networking and through informationals of the type I call the Company Insider Conversation. Even if such a conversation doesn’t lead to a Hiring Manager Meeting, it may lead to a referral once there is an opening. Job seekers who keep busy having these kinds of conversations tend to get hired faster than those who spend most of their time applying to openings online.

How is the agenda different in the Hiring Manager Meeting?

In the other types of informational interviews you need to downplay the fact that you’re looking for a job in order to put your contact at ease. With the manager you should be up front about your interest in working for her. This meeting is very much like a job interview: you’ll be selling yourself as a potential candidate.

How do I do that?

Pretty much the same way you’d do that in a job interview. For example:

  • Know your key selling points and proactively bring them up. A good salesperson always knows and emphasizes the top features of their product that are most likely to excite their customer. This is so important that I devoted the first chapter of my interview preparation guide to a step-by-step process of identifying your “REV Points.” As of this writing I’m giving away that first chapter as a free gift for subscribing to this blog.
  • Make a good impression and connect well with the interviewer. Be on time, appropriately dressed (as for a job interview). Smile. Make conversation. Take a sincere interest in the manager and her department.
  • Be consultative. Ask about the department’s and company’s goals and challenges. Look for ways to be a resource.
  • Be prepared with solid answers to common interview questions like “Would you tell me about yourself?”, “Why are you interested in this company?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
  • Be ready to tell concise, clear stories that demonstrate your abilities and how you’ve made a difference for past employers.

Then what?

Follow up to ensure the manager will remember you.

  • Send a well written thank-you message within 24 hours reiterating your interest and why you’d be a good fit for future openings.
  • Keep in touch via friendly updates on a regular basis to let her know you’re still interested. Otherwise, her promise to “keep you in mind” may quickly fade from their memory. Use a system to schedule follow-ups – Outlook tasks, a contact management system like Jibberjobber or even an old-fashioned tickler file.
  • Connect on LinkedIn and other  social media as appropriate, and make a point of regularly looking through your updates and news feed for opportunities to interact.

This post concludes my series about informational interviews as an important job search tool. I hope I’ve convinced you to at least experiment with them, because they can greatly shorten the path to your next opportunity!

Thea :