What’s the most direct way to get the inside scoop about the details of a specific career, an industry, a job, a company?
- The internet?
- Bureau of Labor Statistics?
- Library databases?
- Your best friends?
All of those are fine, but nothing beats the inside story from someone doing the job or hiring for the position you are considering. How do you get that?
Just ask. Ask for an informational interview. It’s a no-cost powerhouse technique for getting up-to-date information.
With an informational interview you can find out:
- What the opportunities are in an industry or companies
- How to get into a field, job, or industry
- What education or experience you might need
- What’s the day to day like. Many glamorous sounding fields have a lot of work that is not so glamorous (Even film superstars repeat small parts of scenes over and over).
Informational interviews are so great because you aren’t looking for a job during the interview, and the person you’re interviewing isn’t directly looking at you for hiring (though that might be a subtext).
In other words, whatever basic question you have about a career or job can be asked.
Who Can You Ask?
Use the broadest range of your network. If no one in your network directly can answer the questions you have, ask them if they know anyone. You’d be surprised at what you turn up.
You can also use social media, especially requests on LinkedIn or on Twitter. You can also use LinkedIn to find people you don’t know but who are exactly the people you need. Then see if you have anyone in your network who is directly connected with them.
Why will someone I don’t even know take the time to talk to me? To answer a question with a question–would you take the time if someone asked you for just 20 minutes and sought out your advice and expertise without expecting anything else (like a job or reference)? If you could fit such a request in, you probably would.
I know I have, and I’m not unusual because people I’ve asked have talked with me.
When Looking for Work (or More Clients)—My Experience
I’ve frequently been asked for informational interviews about coaching and training, and have enjoyed the discussions. Hopefully, I at least gave the interviewer at least one point of view about the joys and obstacles in my field.
I’m currently going through a new round of interviewing people–not to change careers–but so I can learn how the changing health care environment might affect my leadership coaching and facilitation clients in health care. I am also receiving invaluable information about the current hot buttons in health care, the language people are using, and how people look for services like mine.
Similarly, you can go on informational interviews that can extend your knowledge of how you can do a better job of looking for a job in a given field. You can find out what people still need to hire for in your field, what kind of companies might be looking. In addition, though you most definitely are NOT looking for a job during such an interview, you are almost automatically expanding your network. It’s fine to let people know you’d like others to talk with and that you are looking for work just in case they do hear of something.
In other words it can be a solid part of your job search. Of course, if they are impressed with you, they will remember you. If they remember you, then if they or their company are looking for someone, you will have an advantage over other unknown applicants–or even be called in before any job posting.
Again, you are not directly seeking work during the interview, so don’t try to pretend you’re interested in an informational interview when you’re not or it will backfire.
In future posts, I’ll talk about how to conduct a successful job interview. If you have experiences you’d like to share or questions, please add your comments to this story. I’ll reply.