Informational interviews may be a well-known process, but very few people actually use this method to connect with employers.
If you miss this step in your job hunt, you are missing out on the 85 percent of open positions that are not advertised.
We don’t know about these hidden jobs because they are filled through word-of-mouth, which is very common on PEI. One way to break into this hidden job market is by doing informational interviews.
Steps to successful informational interviews:
- Have a goal in mind. It’s ok if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, but narrow down some options so you can determine which one is the right fit for you.
- Create a Top 10 List of employers you want to reach out to. Research their location, what they do, who their competitors are, and their online presence. Here’s the kicker: find out who would be your boss if you were to work there. That is the person you want to meet with. You may have to ask your network, look online, or even call the company to find out who this person is. This step is crucial, and very effective. Many of my clients do not complete their Top 10 List because their meetings turn into mini-interviews which led to job offers!
- Reach out to people you already know who could connect you to the employer or manager you want to meet with.
- Before you make the first call, create an elevator pitch about yourself: a brief introduction about yourself which includes who you are, what you do and the value of what you do. Mention that you want to learn more about the person or company, and then ask for a 15 minute meeting by phone or in person.
- The purpose of your meeting is not to aggressively sniff out a job. That can be a big turn off for some employers. Instead, frame your request around how you are doing research and that a mutual friend suggested a brief meeting.
- Prepare about 10 questions which cannot be answered by searching online. Ask about the company’s values, work environment, technology or systems they use, team structure, etc. Don’t forget to ask for another name to continue the networking chain.
- Be ready for your informational interview to turn into a mini-interview. Prepare to answer questions about yourself and your achievements, dress appropriately, and send a thank-you after the meeting.
- Keep your interview brief – stick to 15 minutes.
- To bring or not to bring your resumé:
- I personally don’t bring my resumé to informational interviews – I want the other person to see that I really am researching, and their input is valuable. After the interview, I might tailor my resumé and send it to them to keep on file should something suitable become available. You can always bring your resumé and offer it only if asked, or refer them to your LinkedIn profile.
- If you were referred by a friend, make sure you tell your friend how it went and thank them for their help.
It’s helpful to keep the research phase separate from the decision making phase. Do all your information gathering first and then you can make your career decision with confidence.