There’s not only one way towards your goal–an employment with a particular organization, one where you really want to work. Personal referrals, career networking, getting in with the help of a recruitment agency–these are just some of the less conventional ways of succeeding. Informational interview is another 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. 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. Enjoy!
How to get an informational interview?
Companies are usually happy to offer informational interviews, as long as they see some potential in the person their managers or common employees will meet on the day.
Everyone tries to build a pool of perspective job candidates, and informational interview is one of the best tools that allow us to collect resumes and business cards of such people–people we may employ one day, or cooperate with them in some other way.
When you ask for an informational interview, you should make ensure that they can find something about you–ideally online, on your LinkedIn profile, or About.me profile, or on any other place.
Enter your name to Google and check the first page of search results. Why should you do it? Simply because 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 the 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 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 the meeting 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 our lovely business, call us…)
What questions should you 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 characterizes their working environment, things they try to achieve next year, and in ten years from now, and so on.
This is the icebreaker, and important part of the meeting with the employer. 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. Get ready to talk about the projects you have worked on recently (are working on at the moment), your hobbies, and your plans for the future. They may ask you a few common screening interview questions as well.
The 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, personality, preferences, and career goals.
Your goal is to get a job–but not in this interview
Nobody would waste their time with informational meetings, 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 on the same day. Your goal is to simply make a connection.
Make a good connection with someone in the company, ideally someone from HR, or from the management, someone who can help you with getting a job interview in a (near) future. If you manage to do that, you can call this meeting a success.
Send a thank you note after your informational interview
You will probably exchange business cards at the end of the interview. They will know how to contact you, and I hope that they will actually 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 with them, 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 an a few months time, and they will know to call you first.
Actually, if the session 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…
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 the interview.
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. I hope you will get the most out of your informational interview, and wish you best of luck!
Continue your preparation with Interview Penguin:
- How to overcome interview nerves – Get your anxiety under control and show your very best in any interview you go to.
- Body language in an interview – Great non-verbal communication is the key. Learn how to say the right things even without words.
- Salary negotiation tips – It may happen that you talk about salaries (at least at broad) already in an informational interview. Learn how much you can ask for without risking to lose your chance with the company.