Informational Interviews: A Valuable Networking Tool for Career Transitions
When a client starts experiencing increasingly demanding employer expectations, the decision to leave may seem like a rational choice. A career change can fuel one’s passion, maintain work-life balance, and enable a client to get off the beaten path.
But wait! A quick move may not prove to be the best option. Remind your client to consider the importance of conducting critical research prior to a major career change — starting with an informational interview. These interviews have been around for a long time and have evolved over the years.
The informational interview is a non-threatening forum in which a potential job seeker seeks advice from an employed professional. The job seeker asks the person being interviewed questions about the industry, organization, and potential positions. The goal of the job seeker is to learn about their prospective career and workplace. In return, the person being interviewed learns about the job seeker and is able to evaluate if he or she may be a fit within the corporate environment. Even if there are no current job openings, the interviewee may decide to add the interviewer to a pool of potential future hires.
The informational interview may sound overwhelming to many clients. But, in fact, it is an informal networking tool that allows the job seeker to explore new career possibilities in order to make wise and timely decisions. Informational interviews are an effective way to evaluate personal fit within a certain role or industry. Contrary to popular belief, their purpose is not to obtain a job offer or ask for a job.
Informational interviews can actually save time, reduce stress, and promote better focus on career development. They are not only geared towards entry-level graduates, but also mid-level professionals, senior-level executives, and workers in all stages of life and career. Clients are able to ask career-related questions of their choice without having to worry about being judged or whether they will be hired.
By encouraging clients to conduct informational interviews, you will help them to identify the direction they need to take and confirm their purpose.
Some Interview Questions to Consider
- What is your typical day like? Describe your typical responsibilities.
- What do you like most about your role? What are the drawbacks of being in this role?
- How did you prepare to take on this particular role?
- What types of decisions do you have to make in this role?
- Why do customers choose your company over your competitors?
- What are the keys to career advancement?
- What are some of the challenges of working in this specific role?
- Do you foresee any changes or challenges in this particular industry — current and/or long term?
- What are the working conditions like?
- Are there any incentives in this role?
- How does this role meet your goals for achieving an optimum work-life balance?
- Do you have any advice or tips for someone interested in this field?
- How would you assess my experience thus far in terms of entering this field?
- Do you know of other people whom I might speak with about similar jobs?
Benefits of Informational Interviews
An informational interview is an effective tool for clarifying career goals, exploring new options, and expanding a professional network. These interviews will not only allow your clients access to the most current career information, but will also provide exposure to real opportunities.
According to LiveCareer, one out of every 12 informational interviews leads to a job offer.
When carefully and thoroughly prepared for, this type of interview can help clients identify their professional strengths and weaknesses. When a client finds themselves in a career rut, an informational interview may actually offer inspiring feedback on their career path and purpose. In essence, an informational interview can provide another missing piece to the career puzzle, identifying any gaps and providing some valuable leads that may help to bridge the voids.
Tips for Conducting Virtual Informational Interviews
Encourage your clients to:
- Select a professional from their network for interviewing and politely ask for an appointment.
- At the same time, ask the interviewee what his or her preferred virtual meeting platform (Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, etc.) is.
- Prepare and practice the virtual meeting technology from their side.
- Research the interviewee, organization, industry, and particular role in preparation for the interview.
- Develop plenty of good, thoughtful questions in advance.
- Dress appropriately and act in a manner that is consistent with any employment interview.
- Focus on the most relevant questions, record some notes if possible, and take cues from the interviewee while always being respectful of his or her time.
- Jot down the highlights of the meeting right after the interview. Note any challenges in conducting the interview as well as ideas for improvement.
- Follow up with a brief thank you note and keep in contact with the interviewee.
Not all informational interviews will result in the outcomes our clients might expect, but they do serve as a valuable information-gathering tool. So, remind your clients to treat all interviews as positive learning experiences and follow up with suitable leads or suggestions that were provided by the interviewees.
The most important thing that our clients should remember about the information gathered in interviews is that they must resist the urge to make any rash decisions that could affect career growth and development. Rather, they should view informational interviews as a means of exploring unique perspectives, while they remain flexible and open to considering all of their options.
Lori A. Jazvac is a passionate, award-winning Master Certified Résumé Strategist and Certified Employment Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada. As a multi-certified Master Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Coach, she specializes in helping clients navigate challenging career transitions. In 2013, an empowering vision inspired Lori to launch Creative Horizons Communications, a holistic career services firm where she virtually supports jobseekers around the globe to embrace their next career milestone. In her spare time, Lori enjoys dance, blogging, watching comedies and reality shows, yoga, and taking long walks in nature.