It always amazes me that people either have no clue what informational interviews are or they discount them completely. I first learned about them at business school and believe that they are powerful tools to use during any job hunt.
Informational interviews are exactly what you think they are – interviews conducted with the sole purpose of finding out more information. In my case, I’ve been using informational interviews to find out more about the events industry and its different niches, to learn more about different companies, to gain advice from various events professionals and to build a network of contacts. After all, it’s very often not what you know but who you know.
There are a lot of benefits to asking for informational interviews…
- Companies, and more importantly the key people in the companies, are usually more than happy to meet with you. (My success rate is about 95%).
- You get your face, name, and brand known to the right people.
- You build a network of contacts that you can reach out to at anytime. (You also get access to their networks – Several people I’ve met with have subsequently introduced me to their contacts).
- You get insider knowledge and gain insights you can’t anywhere else.
- You hear about job opportunities before other people do and can apply for them before anyone else does.
- You can practice your interview skills.
- It can land you a job.
Informational interviews are also different every time. I’ve had a few interviews where it consisted solely of me asking the other person a series of questions and had a few interviews where the other person took charge of asking questions (and giving advice). I’ve had interviews last anywhere from 15 minutes to almost 2 hours long. They don’t need to be held in a formal office setting either. I’ve met with people in countless coffeehouses to over lunch to even over drinks.
The key is preparation. Know the person that you’re interviewing, know about their position, department and company. Prepare a list of intelligent questions to ask. In other words, treat an informational interview as a real interview… because often times, it can turn out to be one.
Oh, and don’t forget to send a thank you note afterwards. That’s just basic etiquette.
What has your experience been with informational interviews? Do you find them successful? A waste of time? Have you landed a job because of one? Let me know, I would love to hear from you.