With the majority of employees NOT satisfied with their career and company, an effective method to increase the likelihood of a good company culture connection can be found through informational interviews. Though few conduct such diligence, doing so will place you at the advantage.
Recently working on an assignment for Education Career Services, I illustrated the steps involved when a networker and jobseeker finds a company they’re interested in and wants to make a new connection with them for further networking purposes in the form of an informational interview.
I realized soon enough into the writing process that I had never really done that before and just as quickly tossed the thought to the side as a waste of time. After all, I have certainly acquired jobs through networking contacts in the past, and have several times in my younger job-seeking days cold-called companies to introduce myself and ask about any open positions.
Sometimes networking and doing just enough was enough to land a job, sometimes not, and most of the time the company simply did not match my expectations culturally or professionally. Looking to enhance the hits and eliminate the misses, the concept of informational interviews suddenly became clearer.
True enough, back then it was easier to get jobs since I was still quite young and tended to be content with lower-skilled jobs (and less pay) while in college. With a fast-forward nod, the need to progress has out-paced the college minimalist lifestyle and has been replaced with reality. Fueled by a progressive perspective, I have come to appreciate the value/benefit of career diligence.
With career in mind, here’s a six step plan to make a more consistent company connection:
1. Know your career interests and research them
To best prepare for a successful informational interview, first understand what types of work you are really interested in doing. Make a list of all the types of jobs you’ve always wondered about or had an itch to try. Don’t waste company time or your time either if you’re just shooting in the dark and don’t know what you want to do.
2. Know who you want to interview
It’s a good idea to start with people you know first, if for no other reason than practice. Try interviewing friends, relatives, students, co-workers, neighbors, etc.
Research companies of interest and write down a list of questions that come to you during your research. Use such resources as the internet, the library, career counseling centers at schools, and employment centers. One thing is for sure, you don’t want to go into an informational interview unprepared, so don’t rush this part.
3. Make a phone script for each call
Once you get a chance to talk to one person, you should politely ask if they may suggest someone else you could arrange to talk to another time. If the work interests you, you will want to get as many opinions as possible about the industry and job specifics, comparing notes later.
4. Interview your contacts using 20 interview pre-written questions
Though you have 20 questions at hand, select the ones most fitting – do not attempt to ask all 20 questions the person on the other end of the line may not have the time.
If you are meeting with the person, dress appropriately, arrive on time, and be polite and professional. Refer to your list of prepared questions, but be flexible enough in your conversation to allow for spontaneous discussions, should they arise.
It’s generally not recommended that you use a recording device during the informational interview. This can be a turn-off, and you don’t want to get started on the wrong foot. A notepad, however, is fine.
5. Track each interview with your action plan worksheet
Immediately after the informational interview, it is best to record your impressions and other important thoughts or information. Keep the information from each on a separate “action plan” worksheet as you may need those names and information later.
6. Write a thank you letter
Be honest, sincere, and clear with your words, and you can’t go wrong when sending a thank you letter. When possible, make sure it’s a handwritten thank you letter as these types of notes set you apart, are more personable than an email message, and will keep you in a contact’s memory.
Discussing the industry, job responsibilities, expectations, and culture with those in the field better prepares the seeker to create a match. For those interested in delving deeper into informational interviews as well as other career focused methods, visit our library of resources.
Article penned by Bret Hoveskeland
Education Career Services
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