With the current job market, you may find yourself considering a completely different career path. If that’s the case, informational interviews are among the most valuable ways to explore new career options. It’s an opportunity to expand your network while getting an insider’s view of a field you’d like to learn more about. You may even be able to uncover hidden job openings that never get posted publicly. Unfortunately, many professionals don’t know how to make the most of these meetings. Below are some strategies that will help you ace the informational interview so you can ultimately land a job that lights you up inside.
Do your homework
Never go into an informational interview cold. Regardless of whom you’re speaking with, you will want to make a positive first impression by preparing in advance. Investigate the industry, company and role that you may be interested in. Study the industry jargon and vocabulary. Also, don’t forget to go on LinkedIn and research the individual you’ll be meeting with. This exercise may spark specific questions about their background or reveal any interests that you have in common. All this groundwork will give you confidence and help you come across as a more serious candidate.
Maximize your time (and theirs)
Time is precious. Keep an informational interview to a maximum of thirty minutes. Develop a succinct summary of your background and what you’re looking for in advance. Make sure to spend most of your time on the most critical questions you’d like answers to. Stay focused and don’t veer too far off-topic. Remember that this is a business meeting. Ultimately, they will appreciate that you are conscious of their busy schedule and staying on point.
Ask open-ended questions
Make a list of intelligent questions ahead of your appointment. The best way to get someone to open up is to ask open-ended questions. Be curious. Rather than ask yes or no questions, start your questions with “what” or “how.” Also, don’t be afraid to inquire about the challenges, difficulties and roadblocks. Is there anything they would have done differently? You’re there to get the full picture—and that includes the good, bad and the ugly.
Practice your closing
A lot of people think of informational interviews as a “one and done” proposition. Instead, think of it as the start of a long-term relationship. Spend some time building rapport with your interviewee. At the end of your conversation, ask them if they could recommend one or two additional people that you can speak with. That way, you are not only gaining valuable insights but are also continuing to expand your network. Practice what you’re going to say in advance, so it sounds natural and unrehearsed. It could be as simple as,” Could you recommend a couple more people for me to speak with to learn more about this industry?” If, for some reason, they can’t think of anyone, ask them what they would suggest as next steps.
Foster a long-term relationship
After your meeting, send them an email expressing gratitude for their time. Also, don’t forget to stay in touch with your contact by checking in occasionally. That way, you will also be top of mind should a position open up in the future for which you may be a good fit.
Acing an informational interview (while it’s not a job interview) can ultimately lead to your dream job. You are there to make a connection so that the person you’re speaking with will feel comfortable hiring you themselves or referring you to someone who will. If you have a meeting that falls flat, don’t let it rattle you. Be patient. The more informational interviews you have, the better chance you have of landing the job you want. So, go out there, be bold, and make the most of them!
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