The Value of the Informational Interview

Spring is the air.  Windows are open, birds are chirping, and soon-to-be college graduates are sending out resumes with the hopes of landing their first job.

Using technology has certainly impacted the way employers find candidates and how a candidate finds a job.  With keywords and algorithms used to sort through and weed out applicants, it seems to me that it may be less about your actual skillset and more about whether you have used the keywords and phrases correctly on your resume.

I understand why we use technology, but nothing will replace a conversation between a job candidate and an employer, especially if you are seeking a communications position.

I do about five or six informational interviews with college students per semester.  Add in a few with re-careerers, and I meet about 20 people interested in public relations.

Before you start the interview process, I advise everyone to write your own job description.  Not the standard “an opportunity to use my education with room for advancement,” but really what you want to do each day.  Think about what will make you want to get up each day excited about going to work.  Then, seek out those employers that fit your personal job description and find the opportunity to schedule the informational interview.

And whether you are just starting out or have been doing this for 20+ years, I share the following:

  • I’m more than happy to meet with your son, daughter, niece, nephew, next door neighbor, etc. but they are going to have reach out to me and ask. If you are pursuing a career in communications, start communicating.
  • Most of these informational interviews are done as a video chat now, but that doesn’t mean that meeting etiquette goes by the wayside.
    • Confirm the meeting.
    • Just like you would arrive a few minutes early to an in-person meeting, do the same thing for your video meetings. Login in a few minutes ahead of time to make sure everything is working.
    • Dress the part. This is your first opportunity to make a good impression with a potential employer so show up to the video call like you would in-person.  Sure, we know you’re likely wearing yoga pants, but from the waist up, please look professional.
    • Have a stable internet connection and pay attention to what’s in your background.
  • Come prepared. Do your homework about my company and about my career and ask me questions.  We all have a story to tell about how we got where we are.
  • About the questions… this is an informational interview rather than a job interview, so you should ask questions about the types of positions available, what skillset we would be looking for, etc.
  • Share some of your successes. I want to know more about you as well, so have a few good stories to tell that highlight some of your experiences.
  • Keep the meeting to 30 minutes. That should be plenty of time.
  • Send a thank you note. Use it to not only express your gratitude for their time, but it is a chance to offer up some additional information or to emphasize something you shared during your time together.

And with just one or two exceptions, every person that I have hired for our agency over the past 30 years was someone I met prior to hiring them. Done right, the informational interview is a perfect way to make those acquaintances.

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at Apr 21, 2023

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