Open doors with an informal interview

An informational interview is used primarily for two reasons: to gather more information about a company and to gather more information about industries or occupations. Whether you are just out of college or have fifteen years of experience, informational interviews are a valuable activity to provide clarity regarding your career choice and direction in conducting an effective job campaign.

Develop a list of 10-15 target companies that you would like to work for.  Once identified, begin researching the companies and identify specific areas within the firm in which you would like to work.  Your goal should be to identify specific departments within your target companies. Try to identify specific people within these departments from your research or personal and professional network.These are the contacts that you should target for informational interviews.  An informational interview begins with a phone call to the prospective companies or people you have researched. Develop a script of the phone call before you call. The script should include everything you want to say to the company. Make sure you study this script and know what you are going to say before your call.

The first person you contact will likely be the receptionist. He or she should be your first friend in the company. The receptionist is the initial gatekeeper and can play a large part in the hiring process. They are often asked questions about a candidate’s phone etiquette and personality. Often, they are asked to give their general opinion of the applicants they speak with on the telephone and in person. Therefore, begin selling your skills to this person while gaining valuable information about the company. Make sure you learn his or her name and try to establish a rapport.

The key to this interview is to build a business friendship. Remember that your goal is to gather information about the company. If you set up an informational interview with a recruiter or the department manager, make sure you utilize this time to gather as much data as you can.

After you contact each company and schedule an appointment, prepare a list of questions to ask. Make sure your questions are typed and convey the topics that are important to you in a company. You should have five to ten detailed questions written out prior to the interview that will give you the best possible facts from which you will draw your final job decision. Here are a few examples of questions you could ask the person with whom you meet.

  • · What do you know now about this industry that you didn’t know before you entered it?
  • · Would you have done anything differently?
  • · What types of characteristics are important for success in this field or with your company?
  • · What makes XYZ Firm different from its competitors?
  • · What type of special education or certification is required when working in this field?

When you are preparing for the interview, utilize the research you have already conducted. Read the company’s annual report to gather pertinent information about the company’s performance, products, locations, and so on. This is also a good time to land the first impression.  Here are a few items to consider.

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