Informational interviews are often underutilized, yet one of the best ways to tap the hidden job market. So what is an informational interview? It’s a one-on-one conversation with someone who has a job you might like, who works within a field you might want to enter, or who is employed by a company that you’re interested in learning about. The purpose of informational interviews are to build relationships and ask for advice.
My second job out of graduate school was obtained through an informational interview. As you’ve read in my previous newsletter, my first job was a total bust, so I needed to find something that would be a better fit and I did it through informational interviewing. Here’s how:
1. Asking my friends and family to make introductions– I inquired with my friends, family and former colleagues to make introductions to anyone working in the nonprofit sector serving high school youth. Many of them were supportive of my job change, so they were more than happy to help me make connections.
2. Requesting an informational interview– I asked several people who were introduced to me if I could treat them for coffee and ask questions about their position, career path or experience working for their company. I reached out to four people and three of them were willing to meet with me. *Be prepared for someone to not respond to your request or say no to meeting with you.
Before I met with anyone, I researched their background, information about their company and anything else I could find on the internet.
3. Meeting for coffee– I prepared questions that I really wanted the answers to and could not find from researching the internet such as, “What’s one thing that no one ever told you that you wish you knew before pursuing your career?”During our meeting I listened intently and asked clarifying questions on topics that I wanted to learn more about.
And towards the end of our meeting, I would ask that person to make an introduction to someone else who was in a similar role, worked for a different company or who can guide me more on a particular topic.
4. Follow up- After my meeting, I would e-mail the person to thank them for their time and mention a specific thing they said that got me thinking. I would also remind them about making the introduction.
The outcome: I was introduced to my former supervisor, Brian, a wonderful leader and program director of a nonprofit organization that helped high school dropouts reenroll in educational programs. I met Brian for coffee, we spoke for an hour and I stayed in touch with him after our meeting through e-mail.
Two weeks after our meeting, Brian invited me to an association meeting and introduced me to other managers and directors working for nonprofits that work with high school youth.
I saw a job posting in which I was interested in applying four weeks after meeting Brian. I e-mailed him asking if I could be considered for the position.
Six weeks after our meeting, I was offered an interview and hired one week later for the position.
The whole process of getting a new job took about two months and I did not waste my time filling out mindless applications. More importantly, I was able to meet and receive advice from one of my favorite supervisors and mentors through the process and obtain a job at a nonprofit whose mission I was passionate for.
Informational interviews are effective at building relationships because companies want to hire an employee they know, like and trust. If you want to learn about the process of strategic networking, which include informational interviews, I have two workshops coming up on Tuesday, March 31st and Tuesday, May 12th. Please click here to learn more.