Going to the Source

Usually, by the time you see a job advertisement, the employer has already received piles of applications.  So how do you get ahead of the crowd?  One strategy is to conduct information interviews.  An information interview is initiated by the job seeker to discuss the industry, company, and any open positions.  Information interviews are common and employers are familiar with them.  While initially they may feel a little awkward, stick with it.  They are a great way to identify positions before they are advertised, to get inside information about the company, and to make a personal connection with someone who may become aware of an open position in the future.

There are several ways to identify professionals who you would like to interview.  You can ask your friends and family, you can look at the company website, you can attend networking events and join a professional association, and you can even use social networking tools.  Let them know that you are looking for a job and that you are trying to learn more about the field and the company.  Most people will be willing to help you.  Everybody has been in your shoes at one time or another.

Here are some guidelines to follow when conducting an information interview:

1.  Be professional– Dress as you would for a job interview, be on time, and most importantly, don’t ask for a job.  If you ask for a job, the conversation will be over and they will suggest that you contact the human resources department.

2.  Be Brief– Remember that this person is busy.  After 15 minutes, let them know that you are aware that they are busy and give them the opportunity to close the conversation.  They may choose to continue the interview, but make sure that it is their choice.

3.  Ask good questions– Be sure to ask carefully crafted questions.  This will help you make a positive impression and it will ensure that you are making the best possible use of this opportunity.  Ask questions about the industry, the company, trends, and priorities.  Ask about anything that will help you to identify future opportunities and to impress employers with your knowledge of the industry.  Try to learn the industry jargon.

4.  Be grateful– These professionals are taking time out of their busy schedule to help you.  Let them know that you appreciate it.  It is also a good idea to send a thank you letter after the interview.

Information interviews are well worth the time invested.  If nothing else, you get the opportunity to make a connection with a professional in your field.  However, if you are lucky, you could get a contact, or a piece of information that will lead you to your next job.
(Written by Karen Bivand)
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