“Getting out there” is key for anyone seeking a job in the GTA. That means, meeting with people, making contacts, and connecting with those in your field. And informational interviews are a terrific way to achieve all three things in one 20-minute coffee chat.
One conversation with someone in your line of work who can share tips and insight can be a boost to your job search. But just like a job interview, an informational interview also takes some prep work to get the most out of it.
Here are top tips from the experts at The Bagg Group on how to have a get-together that gets results.
Remember, an informational interview is not a job interview. The person with whom you’re meeting agreed to tell you about what they do, not hire you. So don’t spend their time talking at them about you. Since they don’t have a job to offer, they’re not so interested in details of your work history and the top ten reasons why you deserve an office next to theirs.
Honour your deal. They answered your request to get together so you could learn from them. It’s important to honour the intent of the meeting by asking questions.
Even though they don’t have a position for you, they do have pertinent info and they can keep an eye out for you for any opportunities. They will only do that if they feel your interest in what they have to say is genuine.
Prepare ahead of time. Even if you’re just meeting for a casual chat over coffee, don’t wing it. Instead, research their company to show interest.
Think like a reporter, and bring out a notepad with questions written down. This is a great strategy to stay on track. It can happen too easily that people spend their meeting chatting about everything from kids’ soccer games to travel plans, without getting into the nitty gritty.
Beforehand, ask yourself: What insight can this person share that would help me in a job interview? For example, it’s useful to confirm and discuss in some detail the three skills now most needed, and valued, in your field of work. This can help you anticipate a job interviewer’s questions about your skill set.
Other helpful questions to ask include:
- What are the biggest challenges / frustrations in your field?
- What do you see as the way to overcome these obstacles?
- How do you measure success in your work?
- What do you think will change in your field over the next few years?
- What are people doing to prepare for those changes?
- From your position, what is the best piece of advice you would give someone looking to get a job in —–?
- Are there professional or trade association I should join?
Don’t overstay your welcome: It’s sad but true that a great meeting can be remembered as a waste of time simply because it went ten minutes too long. At about the 20 minute mark, start wrapping it up – or earlier if you see the person is getting antsy. If they want to keep talking, they will.
Send a follow-up thank-you: A short note appreciating the information that they shared goes a long way. Consider mentioning that one day you would like to repay the favour.
Don’t presume this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship: Consider it a one-off meeting, not a mentor relationship, and not reason to send weekly updates. You don’t want the person to move you into their Spam file. If you do send the occasional update, keep it short and make sure it would be of interest.
Whether you are looking for a full-time position in the GTA, contract work, or temporary placement, The Bagg Group recruiters confirm that lining up informational interviews is a smart part of your job-hunting strategy.
There’s no cause to feel uncomfortable asking for an informational interview. Sure, it’s a favour someone is doing you, but as we wrote in an earlier blog, it’s a favour well worth granting.