Informational Interviews: Take the Steps Your Competitors Won’t
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No matter how tight the job market may be, the best way to edge ahead of your competition is usually pretty simple: just identify the skills and credentials you possess that nobody else can bring to the table, and build your case for employment around these skills. If you don’t actually have a unique set of qualifications, or even if you do, you can also take steps during the application process that your competitors probably won’t consider, or won’t have the determination, patience, or social savvy to enact.
For example, consider lining up a series of informational interviews. These are interviews you’ll conduct on your own terms with professionals, experts, and established mentors in your chosen field. To identify these people and carry out your interviews effectively, start by taking the steps below.
7 Steps To Line Up Informational Interviews
- Use your network to find established senior employees in your field. If you’ve gone through and exhausted your personal contacts list, visit the website of a trade group or industry organization in your area where you might find a few additional names.
- Once you’ve settled on a professional contact, it’s time to be bold and reach out. Send the person a short, respectful email requesting a meeting of less than fifteen minutes in his or her office. Explain that you’re trying to gain a foothold in this field and that your long term goals include a position similar to the one this person currently holds. Explain that you’d like to ask for advice, and you’d like to know what it takes to succeed in the industry the way this person has.
- If you receive a response to your email, thank the person politely whether she agrees to meet with you or not. If you receive no response, follow the email with a quick phone message containing the same information.
- If both messages are unanswered, move on to the next person on your list. But if your contact agrees to meet with you, establish a time and date that are convenient for her schedule.
- Assemble a list of about five open-ended, meaningful, and interesting questions that you’ll ask your contact during your meeting. These can include any of the following: What made you decide that this field was the right choice for you? What position did you hold when you first entered this profession?What are some of the qualities necessary for success in this business? What skills should I be working on now if I hope to someday be where you are at this point in your career? Do you have any general advice for me as I search for work in this field and try to impress potential employers?
- Dress professionally for your meeting, show up early, and make sure your contact doesn’t need to go out of his or her way to make the process run smoothly. For example, if you meet for lunch, make sure you choose a restaurant close to your contact’s workplace, arrange the reservations if necessary, and pick up the tab.
- At the end of your meeting, send your contact a hand written note to say thank you. Make sure the note includes your phone number and email address in case she has additional tips or suggestions for you, and as your job search continues, keep her in the loop. Let her know when you’ve landed your next position successfully.
Remember two simple truths that apply to most busy working people: 1) everyone enjoys helping others who show an interest in their line of work, and 2) nobody enjoys being taken advantage of. At the end of your interview process, make sure your contact leaves with warm feelings and positive memories of the encounter. Even if she can’t give you specific assistance right now, she’ll remain a valuable addition to your network as your career moves forward.
LiveCareer (www.livecareer.com), home to America’s #1 Resume Builder, connects job seekers of all experience levels and career categories to all the tools, resources and insider tips needed to win the job. Find LiveCareer on Youtube and visit LiveCareer’s Google+ page for even more tips and advice on all things career and resume-related.
Image Credit: Kim Piper Werker
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