Interviewing is no longer just for active job-seekers. While scouring the job market for a future full-time position, people often forget the value of the informational interview, especially for someone undecided about a field or unconfident about their resume. Though the informational interview won’t directly land a job, it certainly will help advance any job seeker’s search.
What’s the difference between an informational interview and a traditional job interview? In the case of an informational interview, there’s typically no job opening. Rather, the goal is to build knowledge, get advice, and gather leads for new connections or opportunities. Informational interviews are an excellent way to learn about a field, industry, or organization without the pressure of a job hanging over your shoulders.
I’ve often been surprised by the positions that some people achieve straight out of college. However, when considering the connections that many of those individuals have, it’s not so surprising after all. One of the main goals of an informational interview, aside from learning about the industry, is to build a lasting professional relationship and grow your network. There’s always a hidden job market ready to be discovered that’s often not advertised online, which you can uncover by talking to people in the field. By conducting an informational interview, not only will you get your name out in the industry, you may also be able to identify a need the company has that you can fill.
Getting an informational interview takes a bit of work. After identifying specific companies within an industry that interests you, begin expanding your network by finding people who work in this industry. Though cold-calling contacts is always an option, the best way to get an informational interview is to ask someone in your network to make the connection for you. Once you meet with this person, what’s a good approach since there is no formal job opening up front? You may ask about that person’s career trajectory, how to get started in the industry, whether your resume would catch a recruiter’s eye, if a job opening opens up, would he or she pass your name along, and if you may send an invitation on LinkedIn. Make sure to follow up after the meeting with a thank-you note and keep in-touch periodically!
OpenSesame offers many courses to help you ace to the informational interview, including Guiding Your Career Through Informational Interviews. This interview question training course, Selecting New Employees: Types of Interviews and Interview Questions will help prepare you for many different types of interviews and interview questions that could arise during either a traditional or informational interview. Finally, prepare for an interview with Interview Skills: The Psychology of Interviewer Skills Training Course to understand how the interviewer thinks and how to think like an interviewer. No matter what industry you’re considering, informational interviews can kickstart your career and may even prepare you to interview new hires when you’re in a management position.