Informational interviewing is a great way
- To refine your goals for your vocation and career.
- To acquire information about a specific role or position.
- To gather information about a particular organization.
- To learn about the job market in a specific industry or geographic region.
The goal of an informational interview is to gather information — NOT TO CONDUCT A JOB INTERVIEW!
Arrange informational interviews with people who
- Have the power to hire you.
- Are knowledgeable about the field or the organization.
- Have connections that may help you get your foot in the door of an organization or one similar to it.
Find the right people to interview by
- Identifying roles and/or organizations in which you are interested.
- Speaking to other Oles, mentors, coworkers (if appropriate), former coworkers, former professors, family, and friends to determine if they know people in the organizations and roles you have identified.
- Utilizing both the online St. Olaf Alumni Directory and LinkedIn to identify contacts.
- Initiating contact through a professional email, letter, or phone call.I
Ask for no more than 20 minutes of the person’s time
- Most people will be willing to spend 20 minutes with you, whereas half an hour (30 minutes) seems like a much longer period of time.
Preparing for an informational interview:
Prepare for an informational interview as if it were a screening interview, in which an organization conducts an initial interview to narrow the pool of applicants.
Informational interviews can quickly turn into job interviews if you happen to contact a person whose organization has a vacancy or who may want to create a new position around your qualifications.
Preparing questions for an informational interview:
- Prepare written questions in advance.
- Prioritize your questions so that you list the most essential information first.
- Review ”What questions might you ask during an informational interview?”
Final five minutes:
- Let the person know that you don’t want to use more than 20 minutes of the person’s time.
- If the person states a willingness to give you extra time, then you may spend more time.
- Ask for contacts or referrals.
- Ask if you may use the interviewer’s name in approaching these contacts or referrals.
- Thank the interviewer for meeting with you.
- State how helpful the information was in your career search.
Send a thank you email or preferably a written note within 48 hours of the interview!
What is Networking?
- Networking IS a process for building relationships with people who can provide you with information, advice, and referrals to increase your visibility in the job market.
- Networking IS NOT a process for contacting people to ask for a specific job within a company.
For alumni, networking is one of the most effective methods for finding opportunities and, ultimately, securing a job. As an Ole, you are fortunate. The St. Olaf community is an especially fruitful place to begin building or to expand your network.
General Tips for Networking:
Respect the person’s time
Do not drop in uninvited, and if you telephone, always ask if you have chosen a good time to talk. Be aware of differences in time zones.
Be careful with the word “networking”
Unless you are attending an event specifically for “networking,” refer to this activity as “making connections,” building relationships and seeking advice.
Know your purpose
Do your homework so that you don’t ask questions that you could have answered through basic research.
Show interest, and be curious about the person’s path
Early in the discussion, ask about the person’s career path. Get curious! By showing an interest in a person’s journey, you will establish a personal connection and, most likely, gain information relevant to your own search.
Prepare thoughtful questions
Are there any industries, sectors or roles that you think would best match my skill set?
What are the necessary skills and abilities for someone in this field, role, etc.?
What do you enjoy/find challenging about your company/organization?
Are there particular companies or employers that might be a good fit for me? Are you familiar with people in any of those companies to whom I might speak?
When a person offers advice, listen attentively.
Do not monopolize the conversation, and do not rush through it.
Keep the conversation positive
If you come across as negative and gossipy, or as someone who criticizes others, that impression will stick. You never know who your person might know.
Ask for help in small doses
Ask more questions than favors.
Establish a connection first. Listen to the person’s career path.
Do not burden the person with initial requests for additional contacts or job advice.
Before using a person’s name to approach a referral, make sure that you have the person’s permission to do so. Honor requests for confidentiality.
If you are given referrals to additional people, follow up right away! Doing so will demonstrate that you are professional and serious.
Send a thank you note
Always send a thank you note after your meeting. An email or written note are both acceptable, although the latter — a written note — is preferable.
Volunteering is a great way to expand your network of influential people, build your skills, and enable others to see you in action. Finding the right opportunity, or creating one, could lead to a paycheck and a fulfilling career.
How do you select a volunteer position and organization where you can find an meaningful opportunity?
- Choose your volunteer experience carefully. Think about what volunteer position would be most likely to benefit your career. If you are looking for a marketing position, seek an organization that can use your marketing skills.
- Create your own opportunity. Form your own internship. An internship, paid or unpaid, is a great way to improve your skills and enhance your resume. For example, if you are looking for a job in public relations, find an organization that could benefit from your services and suggest that you’d like to intern there by writing blog posts or a newsletter. Make sure that the internship allows you to build your skills and enhance your visibility.
- Volunteer to write for an industry publication. Try this approach to position yourself as an expert. A well-written article seen by the right people can strengthen your resume and pay major dividends in credibility, visibility, and connections.
Job shadowing, once reserved for students, is a strategy that professionals are using to explore new careers. Through observing practitioners, asking questions, and completing real work, job seekers can gain valuable insight into new roles. You can job shadow with your current employer or in a new organization.
Follow the steps in this article, “Job Shadowing for Professionals: The 5-Steps You Need from Project Management Hacks,” to secure your own job shadowing opportunity.