Sunday, August 5, 2012

Informational Interviewing for Dummies

One out of every 200 resumes results in a job offer, while one out of every 12 informational interviews results in one. Although informational interviewing is not a tool used specifically to obtain a job, the possibility is not completely ruled out.

According to the University of Colorado’s Career Services website, informational interviews are helpful for multiple reasons including to gain experience and self-confidence during interviews, to gain valuable information for career planning and job searching, to build your professional network, to mentally ‘try on’ an occupation, and more.

An informational interview is different from traditional interviews because you are the one who gets to ask the questions.

You can request an informational interview in many different ways. Begin by asking your friends, relatives, neighbors or classmates for contacts or introductions to people who are in a field that interests you. Additionally, you can ask professors for the contact information of any colleagues or alumni who are employed with organizations that align with your interests. Another way to find professionals to interview is to use an alumni network or social networking site such as LinkedIn. 

Once you have found people to ask, you can contact them through email or by giving them a phone call to see if they are interested in answering a few career related questions. Everyone loves to talk about his or herself, so finding someone to interview should not be too hard!
Here are seven quick questions to consider asking:
  1. Can you tell me how you got this position?
  2. How do people break into this field?
  3. What interests you most about your job?
  4. What are career paths for this type of work?
  5. What do you read to keep up with developments in the field?
  6. What is a typical workday like for you? Workweek?
  7. What types of skills are needed to succeed in this career?
Being a master informational interviewer is an excellent skill to have. According to The New York Times’ writer Marci Alboher, “The need for informational interviews in our careers never ends. With each big move or subtle shift, we need to find the people who’ve been there and who are willing to impart some wisdom.”

Final words of advice: Never overstay your welcome, come prepared and think of ways to give back to those who have given you their time.

Have you ever gone on an informational interview? If so, what advice stood out the most?

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