There is a strategic tool to help you find a job faster, and it’s rarely taken advantage of: the informational interview. And an informational interview is just what it sounds like. It’s not a job interview, where you’re vying with oodles of other candidates for one coveted position. It is simply a request to gain further information about a career you might be interested in, or a company you would like to work for.
You might be surprised to learn that many professionals will grant an informational interview — either in person, on the phone or via Skype or email. Here’s why an informational interview is crucial to your job search.
1. Get Your Foot in the Door (Faster)
Imagine if you’re actually applying for a job. The chances you could be called in for an interview are pretty good; but for an informational interview, you remove all competition from the job-seeking playing field. The person you wish to speak with might have more time in his or her schedule for a meeting than if he or she were in the midst of screening candidates for a job.
2. Gain Insight
Sure, you want to showcase your skills during an informational interview, but be sure to take advantage of the interview itself to glean info. Be prepared with a list of questions to ask about the company and the field itself. Your interviewer will be pleased that researched the company ahead of time and will usually be happy to share his or her knowledge with you. You might also discover that, during the interview, the company wouldn’t be a fit for you — which frees you up to pursue other opportunities.
3. Practice Your Interview Skills
Although you may be knowledgable in your field, it’s normal to fumble your words a bit during an interview. Going on an informational interview helps you to boost your confidence in explaining your career goals and where you see yourself in five years. It is a non-stressful warmup to a real job interview down the road.
4. Find a Potential Mentor
If you think that mentors are older people in stuffy three-piece suits, think again. Today, mentors come in all age ranges and backgrounds — and you just might discover yours in your interviewer. If you find that the two of you click, be sure to ask if you could follow up with other questions post-interview. This way, you help to establish a connection that goes beyond the 20 minutes you were originally granted.
5. Network Yourself
Sitting down with a staffer gives you a great leg up on other people who are looking for a job in that same company. It allows you to move beyond the text in your resume and cover letter, and actually engage with the people who can hire you. It’s your chance to shine and show off your skills, your personality — and why you could potentially be a great asset to the company when it’s time to hire someone.
Informational interviews are a win-win for job seekers. Not only do they allow you to get first-hand information about a company or career you’re interested in, but they are great networking tools that can be used to find your next job.
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Fashion Marketing at Crowley Design Group in Butte, MT
Jennifer Parris is the Career Writer for FlexJobs, an award-winning service that helps job-seekers find professional opportunities that offer work flexibility, such as telecommuting, freelanc. More