Your networking contacts will be an excellent source of information about the current job market and may know of some opportunities that will be of great help to you. So, a meeting with these individuals may be very beneficial to you.
What are the advantages of doing “informational interviews”?
• They are easy to do
• They are informal
• They make others feel good about themselves and their profession
• They can connect you to potential jobs
• They will put you ahead of others with "top of mind" awareness
But, this isn't a "job interview" ... or you calling them for a job at their company ... instead, it is an opportunity for you to meet with them as a friend and gather information that may help you along the way. These are typically referred to as "informational interviews".
What is the purpose of an “informational interview”?
• It is a process you can use to “network”.
• It allows you to try on jobs to see if they fit you.
• It’s the process where you spend time with one of your network contacts in a highly focused conversation that provides you with information you need.
• It allows your networking friend to get to know you better.
Here’s a phone dialogue you can use to set up an interview …
“Hi Jim. This is Dana Kehr. Do you have a moment?
I’m working on a project … and the reason I’m calling is to ask if you might be willing to spend 30 minutes with me telling me a bit about your company and the industry in general. It would really help me a lot.
Could we get together Tuesday? Or is Wednesday better for you?
What do you do at the informational interview?
• Thank him/her for willingness to meet with you.
• Re-emphasize you are there to learn and to gather information about his/her career field.
• Use an informal dialogue to ask your questions.
• Set and stick to a pre-agreed upon time frame.• Ask prepared questions.
What are some possible questions to ask?
1. What are the duties performed during a typical day? Week? Month? Year? Does s/he have a set routine? (As the person describes the duties, ask what skills are needed). How much variety is there on a day-to-day basis?
2. What educational program is recommended as preparation? (Distinguish between courses which are desirable and those which are indispensable.)
3. What kinds of courses are most valuable in order to gain skills necessary for success in this occupation? (Distinguish between courses which are desirable and those which are indispensable.)
4. What degree or certificate do employers look for?
5. What kind of work/internship experience would employers look for in a job applicant?
6. How can a person obtain this work experience?
7. Are any co-curricular activities recommended?
8. What steps besides meeting educational and experiential requirements are necessary to "break into" this occupation? (i.e. - exam? interview? union membership?)
9. What are the important "key words" or "buzz words" to include in a resume or cover letter when job hunting in the field?
10. What are opportunities for advancement? To what position? Is an advanced degree needed? (If so, in what discipline?)
11. Which skills are most important to acquire? (i.e. - which skills do employers look for?)
12. What are the main or most important personal characteristics for success in the field?
13. What are the different settings in which people in this occupation may work (i.e. - educational institutions, businesses, etc.)?
14. What other kinds of workers frequently interact with this position?
15. Is there evidence of differential treatment between men and women workers with respect to job duties, pay, and opportunities for advancement?
16. What are the employment prospects in the advisor’s geographic area? Where are the best employment prospects? What are the employment prospects at the advisor’s company? Is mobility a necessary factor for success?
17. What are some related occupations?
18. Does the typical worker have a set schedule (i.e. - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or are the hours flexible?
19. What are the demands and frustrations that typically accompany this type of work?
20. What is the typical chain of command in this field?
21. How can you determine that you have the ability or potential to be successful in this specific occupation?
22. Is this a rapidly growing field? Is it possible to predict future needs for workers in this field?
23. What types of technology are used and how are they used?
24. Where might job listings be found?
25. What entry level positions are there in this field that a liberal arts graduate might consider?
26. What does the advisor know now which would have been helpful to know when s/he was in your shoes?
Some Additional Functional Questions You May Want to Ask:
1. How many hours does the person you are interviewing work?
2. What sort of education does the person you are interviewing have?
3. What has been his/her career path from college to present?
4. What are the satisfying aspects of the work?
5. What are the greatest pressures, strains or anxieties in the work?
6. What are the major job responsibilities?
7. What are the toughest problems and decisions with which they must cope?
8. What are the dissatisfying aspects of the work? Is this typical of the field?
9. How would the person you are interviewing describe the atmosphere/culture of the work place?
10. Does the person you are interviewing think you left you out any important questions that would be helpful in learning about the job or occupation?
11. Can the person you are interviewing suggest others who may be valuable sources of information?
OK. Once you've held an "informational interview" with someone on your networking list, you'll want to evaluate the information gathered.
Tomorrow, we'll cover that topic in a little more depth.