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How to get the most of an informational interview in a company

Perhaps you have heard about some alternative ways of getting employed in a company of your choice.

Personal referrals, career networking, getting in with the help of a recruitment agency, being headhunted–to name just a few.

Informational interview is another alternative way of getting in a company–or at least the first step on your way to signing a coveted job contract.

It is also your opportunity to learn more about potential employer, about their working environment, visions and goals, and even about their interview process. All of this will help you later on, when you interview for a job with them.

But how to get this interview? What questions will they ask you, and what questions should you ask? We will have a look at it in this article.

 

How to get the interview?

Companies are usually happy to offer informational interviews, as long as they see some potential in the person they will talk to.

Everyone tries to build a pool of interesting job candidates, and informational interview is one of the best tools that allow us to collect resumes and business cards of interesting people–people we may want to employ one day, or cooperate with. 

When you ask for an informational interview, you should ensure they can find something about you–ideally online, on your LinkedIn profile, or About.me profile, or on other place.

Enter your name to Google and check the first page of search results. Why should you do it? Simply becasue the employer will do the very same thing once they receive your request for an informational interview.

 

Attach your resume if you can not find anything desirable

Not everyone of us has some visible online presence. Perhaps you are not on the social networks. Perhaps you have a common name, and someone’s else LinkedIn profile pops up on the top of search results.

In this case, the best thing you can do is to attach a brief resume to your message, or refer to your online profile directly in the text of your email (clickable HTML link).

That is actually the best way of asking for an informational interview–you should send them an email. Phone call is acceptable only if you have a connection in the company, and ask them to arrange an informational interview for you.

To call them is also acceptable when they advertise this option on their website (if you’re interested in an informational interview with us, call us…)

 

What questions to ask in an informational interview?

Start with easy questions about their company, such as what their most successful products are, how many people work for them, or in a certain department of the company, how a typical day in work looks like, what their working environment looks like, what they try to achieve next year and in ten years, etc.

This is the icebreaker, and important part of every informational interview. At the same time, however, you should not sound like someone who knows nothing about the company… To refer to particular products, services, or operations of the company is always better than to basically ask them: “What do you do here?”

Once this stage is over, they will typically ask you a few questions about your professional background, the projects you have worked on recently (are working on at the moment), your hobbies, and plans for the future.

This talk should naturally lead to a discussion of the working opportunities in their company. Once you know something about them, and they know something about you, you can discuss the working opportunities in the company, opportunities that suit your background.

 

Your goal is to get a job–but not in this interview

Nobody would waste their time with informational interviews, if they didn’t want to get a job with the company (or had some other goals that relate to their business). You know it, they know it, everyone knows it.

Nevertheless, you should not come to this interview with a goal of signing a job contract with the company. Your goal is to simply make a connection. Make a good connection with someone in the company, someone from HR, or from the management, someone who can help you with getting a job interview in the (near) future. If you manage to do that, you can call your informational interview a success.

 

Send them a thank you note

You will probably exchange business cards at the end of the interview. They will know how to contact you, and we hope they will contact you :).

Nevertheless, you should send them a short thank you note with your contact details.

If the interview goes well, you can even suggest your interest to interview for one of the offers they advertise (on their careers website, or on one of the major job boards in your country).

Alternatively you can indicate a positions you would like to have, a position that is not available at the moment. People change jobs and leave companies, so perhaps the position you dream of will become available pretty soon.

Actually, if your informational interview goes really well, there is a decent chance that the employer will take the initiative, and will invite you for a an interview for a particular position. This can happen in a few days after your interview, but also in a few months.

 

Conclusion

Information interview is great way of building a connection in a company of your choice. If you request it in a right way (showing them why it makes sense to talk to you), you will typically get it.

Try to make a good impression on the employer, show them the value you can bring to their team, and wait for them to make the next move. Do not forget to send a thank you note, emphasizing your interest to discuss job opportunities in the company.

Continue your preparation with Interview Penguin:

  • Interview thank you note –Learn how to write an effective thank you note. Samples included.
  • Interview success package – Brilliant answers to thirty most common interview questions, and a guide on how to impress every interviewer–even someone who doesn’t initially like you. All you need to know to succeed in your job interview.
  • Work portfolio for an interview – Learn how to prepare a selection of your best works, and how to use it to show the interviewers the value you can bring to their team.

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