Networking 101: The Informational Interview

info2Often in a job hunt you may find that – as hard as you try – interviews are not rolling in and the number of jobs to apply for is lacking.  How do you remain productive and continue to get your name out there as a top candidate when opportunities arise?  One of the best networking techniques is setting up informational interviews.

First of all, an informational interview is NOT to be used as anything other than what it is intended to be – an opportunity to grow your network.  Leverage people you know or connections of people you know to sit down with people in companies you would be interested in or in positions that mirror the next logical step in your career path.  Pull these from friends, friends-of-friends, friends-of-relatives’ friends, etc.

An informational interview helps you better understand what skills you will need to land that next opportunity, expand your network, and will help hone your interview skills for the real thing.

Here are a few things you should remember with every informational interview:

Channel your inner Boy Scout and Be Prepared
Have a few copies of your resume (paper is cheap), bring a list of questions (and something to transcribe the answers), and investigate the user’s LinkedIn profile to see if there are any introductions you’d like to request.

Don’t Overstep
Do NOT ask for a job in these meetings. Remember the goal of these meetings is for you to learn, expand your network, and impress your new connection enough so that they will want to help you in any way they can.

Be Interested
The person across the table is doing you a favor, remember that, and make it a goal to learn from their life (and career) experiences. It is a scientific fact that when a participant in a conversation is given the opportunity to talk and share, he/she will walk away from the conversation feeling better about it than they would if they are just bombarded with a one way filibuster.  There is so much you can learn by simply asking about a person’s path.

Talk About Your Passion
Tell your story. Explain what you love to do and why you’re good at it.  Set yourself apart from other people by making your story both personal and talking about what unique skills you have. Ideally you are looking for introductions to more people to expand your network and opportunities.

Don’t Be “One Way”
Guess what – no matter where you are in your career path, you can help the other party in an informational interview.  Be it knowing companies they should be speaking with for sales or partnerships or being connected to a few people for a position they are looking to fill (payroll people know marketing people).  Offer to connect on LinkedIn, exchange business cards and keep in touch – because you just never know which informational interview will lead to your next, best opportunity.


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