How to Get the Most Out of Your Informational Interview

Are you contemplating an executive-level career change, or are you simply curious about the scope and competency requirements a particular leadership position entails?  What if I could give you the inside knowledge of what it is like working in a particular field, for a particular employer, in a particular region? What would you pay for that type of information?

What if you could find out what day-to-day challenges you may face, or better yet, what the hiring process entails? A good informational interview with the right in-house person can provide this crucial information and can pave the way for writing a good executive resume to target a coveted CEO-level position, professional, or mid-career level job. 

I know what you are thinking: “Wait just a minute, how come I have never heard of these so call ‘informational interviews,’ and if they are so great, why is everyone not leveraging them?” The problem with these types of interviews is that they are an insider secret. You will not find them advertised on LinkedIn or Facebook.

On top of that, attempting to convince a total stranger or busy professional to take vital time out of their day to help you, without any compensation for them (aside from maybe a free coffee), can be slightly challenging and require a little finesse on your part.

Lucky for you, most people today love talking about themselves and their accomplishments. The trick is swaying them the right way. The direct approach is the best approach in this case. This is going to require that you do your homework. Sure, almost anyone who works for the company you are pursuing can provide you with some great intel., but that person who works for that company in the field, position, or office you are seeking is gold.

Capitalize on any and all avenues. I reiterate: if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Persistence is the key. Keep reading for some valuable tips and golden rules regarding informational interviews, and how they can help you connect with the hiring manager or tap into the hidden job market.

Tip #1: Changing Careers?

Following targeted companies, CEOs, or senior leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter can help you help stay connected with updates, product releases, and new openings.  Aha! New openings…. Hiring professionals are often advertising employment opportunities on their LinkedIn feed, and they regularly include their contact information for qualified candidates to easily respond to postings. This can be viewed as an avenue for identifying the hiring professional for a particular position of interest, tapping into the hidden job market, or securing an informational interview.

Keeping in mind, the informational interview should be viewed as a way of obtaining insight into the position as opposed to an opportunity to ask for employment.  The worst thing you can do is burn a bridge before you have had a chance to cross it. This person has graciously given you their time, so arrive early.

Remember to be polite, brief (about 15 to 30 minutes tops), and engaging.  At the beginning and end of the informational interview, express your gratitude for the individual’s time.  Let the person know that you appreciate the time they have given by providing a thank you letter to your contact either the same day or within 24 hours of the informational interview. 

Tip #2: Curious about a Potential Opportunity?

Informational interviews Creating a list of 2 to 3 questions in advance of the informational interview will help to keep the conversation structured and timely.  In short, be prepared. Pay close attention to their answers, and let the conversation flow naturally.

Tip #3: Need to Possibly Open the Door to a Future Position?

You guessed it; informational interviews can open the door to a new future opportunity.  Let’s say the person you have secured the informational interview with is not the actual hiring manager but someone in human resources with knowledge of the position you are interested in.

 The impression you leave with this company representative can pave the way for you being possibly referred for a future leadership role with a prospective employer.  It is okay if you did not get to ask all of your questions in the allotted timeframe. You seized an opportunity to have left a comfortable, favorable impression. Remember that the thank you letter is a great way to express appreciation for their willingness to meet with you. It is the easiest way to let someone know that their time and information was appreciated.

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