The Power of Informational Interviews: How to Use Them to Your Advantage was originally published on Ivy Exec.
If you’ve been searching for a job for a while, you might wonder how to get noticed.
According to executive coaches Jody Michaels Associates, only one in every 200 resumes you send out results in a job offer. The way to beat the odds? Try informational interviews. Every one in twelve of these leads to an offer, says the coaching firm.
Why are informational interviews such a powerful tool?
For one, informational interviews make sure you’re finding the position and industry that suits you best. When you’re seeking a new career direction, you can conduct a series of interviews to see which field and role is right for you. Then, by the time you’re ready to apply, you’re passionate about new opportunities, which, in turn, translate into more successful job applications.
What’s more, you’ll acquire insider knowledge about the company and its culture. If you’re talking to contacts who already work at an organization, you’ll also have the inside scoop about what they’re seeking in a new hire.
Finally, many companies fill openings by seeking referrals through their network. The 2021 CERIC business survey talked about the “hidden job market” and how 67 percent of employees were hired through referrals.
“We see that employee referrals are still one of the top recruitment methods for hiring skilled labor. So getting to know people from your dream job/company is still one of the best ways to access the hidden job market,” said Disability Employment Specialist Jesse Preston, speaking about the results of the CERIC survey.
So, the power of informational interviews is clear. How can you make the most out of this underutilized job-seeking tool?
Defining the informational interview.
You can harness the power of informational interviews at any stage in your career.
If you’re a recent MBA graduate, you may decide to connect with individuals who have been in your field for a few years. If you want to change fields but aren’t sure where to go, you can talk to people in occupations you find intriguing.
Remember that you are the interviewer, and accordingly, you’re leading the show. So, come prepared with what you want to discuss. For instance, if you see yourself in a role like theirs in five years’ time, you could ask them about their career trajectory.
You certainly don’t want to ask them to find you a job immediately. Instead, it’s key to build a relationship before asking for favors.
“You are not going to talk to someone during an informational interview and magically get a job offer. Focus on having a great conversation with someone you admire,” Barbara Bruno advised in her course, Informational Interviewing.
Finding the right interviewees.
Once you have your informational interview goal in mind, start reaching out to potential contacts.
The first thing to do is decide what industry or occupation you want to target. Then, research successful individuals in this arena on Google or LinkedIn. It’s likely that you’ll be able to narrow down possibilities after reading their profiles and specializations, so you can focus on professionals with whom you most want to connect.
Once you find a list of possibilities, you want to consider how likely they’d be to connect with you. Indeed, some people will respond to so-called “cold” emails where the two of you don’t have any connections in common. However, you’ll improve your chances if you share some common ground, whether it’s a past employer or a shared client.
Decide how many people it feels realistic for you to reach out to. Remember that you’re likely not to get responses from at least a few of these potential contacts. So, a reasonable place to start is 10 to 20 contacts.
Writing the request for an informational interview.
Now, it’s time to write to your list of potential contacts.
Your first step is to tell them what you hope to learn or discuss during your call. If your contact knows what information you’re seeking, they’ll be more likely to accept your request.
You also want to mention why you’re contacting them specifically. Did you appreciate something they wrote? Have they held jobs that you’d like to win someday? Be clear about why you want to connect with them in particular.
Finally, be clear about when you want to meet. You are driving this informational interview, so you want your contact to do as little work as possible. So, propose a few dates and times that work for you, also mentioning that you’re open to their schedule, too.
You only want to suggest a 15- to 20-minute meeting so you don’t take up too much of their time.
Prepare the questions you want to be answered beforehand.
You only have a limited timeframe to discuss with your interviewee.
So, you want to make sure you’re getting your questions answered and are prepared to lead the conversation.
So, you want to make sure you’re asking what you want to know. You also want to be familiar with their field and your interviewee’s professional accomplishments.
Here are questions you might consider asking:
- What are aspects of your occupation that those outside of it may not know?
- What do you like most about your job? What do you find the most difficult?
- What qualities do you think are most important to be successful in this field?
- What are trends in your field you think I should understand?
The Power of Informational Interviews
Some professionals get interested in informational interviews because they think they’ll help them land new jobs.
While you may land a job offer after an informational interview, this shouldn’t be the only reason for conducting this type of meeting.
Instead, your most immediate interest should be to explore a new field or occupation, connect with relevant contacts in your industry, and glean new ideas. Landing a new job should be a far-off goal after time building this relationship.
Want more guidance on securing informational interviews? Read our article “Best Practices For Landing An Informational Interview” for advice.