What is the purpose of informational interviews and why do them?

Everyone talks about the hidden job market and how many jobs are not even advertised. So how do you find these hidden jobs? Where are these jobs? Having worked in the employment industry for over 25 years, and helped thousands of people find jobs, I wanted to share what I have learned with you.

So what is an Informational Interview?

You can find a job before it is advertised by doing informational interviews with companies that you are interested in working for. Knowledge is power!

Basically, an Informational Interview is a conversation. These are very important in your search for a new job and help in determining if the company is a good fit for you. Informational interviews help you get an inside glimpse into organizations that you would not gain from a job interview. Simply put, it is an interview where the goal is gathering information about a profession or organization rather than securing employment (although job offers can result from the meeting!). It is a fact-finding discussion where you talk with people already working in a particular role, field, industry, or workplace about:

• the tasks that they perform and the knowledge and skills that they use

• the path that they took and the experience and qualifications required to obtain their job

• the kinds of people that they serve, lead, and/or with whom they collaborate on the job

• the sort of work environment and culture in which they work

• the joys and frustrations of doing their work, in their industry and for their organization

Your aim is to get an overview of both their typical workday as well as the variety of work situations, interactions and opportunities they have encountered across the course of their career.

You can gain information about the important characteristics that the different companies look for when hiring. This will help you in creating cover letters, and resume that emphasize the key attributes that you have to offer. They are also a great way to practice your interview skills prior to a job interview.

How Informational Interviews have helped my clients find jobs

Many companies have a referral system and ask their staff if they know of anyone who they believe can be a good fit for the organization. Some even give a bonus to staff who refer individuals who are hired. However, it is important to remember that it is not a guarantee that an Informational Interview will result in the person referring you for an opening within a company.

One of my clients, who had an MBA and very little work experience as a Business Analyst, went for an Informational Interview with someone who was working at a large organization that she was very interested in working for. The two had worked together at a previous firm, and when they met for an Informational Interview the employee took her resume into the Hiring Manager and promoted her for an available position. The result was an interview, as she was recognized in the pile of 300 applicants, and ended up getting the job! This does not happen every time, but I have seen it happen enough times to know it works for many.

In another case, I had a client in the biotechnology field who was laid off in early November. Through doing a series of Informational Interviews, he landed a job in early January! He set-up an Informational Interview with someone who he had worked with ten years ago, who had recently secured funding for a new research project and was at the early stages of recruiting. Initially, the company had thought they were going to hire a junior person, but upon meeting my client who had twenty years of experience, they decided to redo the job description and hired him.  The Informational Interview enabled them to realize that his skills could move the research must faster and were critical in helping them grow.

Review your network to see if you know anyone who works at an organization that you would like to work for.  If not, use LinkedIn to find shared connections and ask your contacts for an introduction.

Companies Forecast Future Staffing Needs

Organizations will forecast their staffing needs and often have projects that are waiting for approval.  Usually, they will start to collect resumes and potential staff prior to these projects starting. During an Informational Interview, you can find out about their future needs and gain an understanding of what skills they require. This allows you to determine if you have a skills gap, and enable you to use the time prior to the forecasted position to gain the essential skills.

Consider Informational Interviews when searching for jobs or for identifying the best courses to take that will fit your interests and needs.

My next blog will provide tips on how to do an informational interview and what questions to ask.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash