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Informational Interviews:  Not Just For Rookies post image

A common misconception is that informational interviews are only for folks starting out in their career. Sure informational interviews are a great idea for the new college grad, but they can be game-changing later in your career as well. Two of the best executive roles I’ve had came from such informational interviews, and eventually the real interviews once a job was available.

I used this technique to move to a completely new side of the business, from Verizon to Verizon Wireless and establish an entirely new network (pun intended).

Of course I didn’t call them that. If you’re more established in your career, I’d avoid the term informational interview, but a rose by any other name…

In my case I just reached out via email with a short summary and my resume attached. I shared a bit of my background (with enough of an elevator speech to get them to open attached resume.). I indicated I would be in “the neighborhood (e.g. the same state)” and asked if I could swing by to introduce myself. It was important to say that I was perfectly happy in my current role (which was close enough to the truth to still go to church on Sunday), but just looking for career guidance and future possibilities.

Each of these introductions inevitably led me to ask the question: who else should I talk with?  That question led to more such informational interviews, a ride along, and an invitation to attend a local charity even dinner with the VP (which felt like a 4 hour interview). It takes time, so you can’t be in a rush. One job surfaced 9 months later, another took two years to bake, but involved a promotion. Both were worth the effort.

Tips For Conducting a Great Informational Interview

  1. Remember this is your dime, be prepared to lead the conversation
  2. Have intelligent questions prepared
  3. Listen more than you talk
  4. Be actively interested and take notes
  5. Have a strong elevator speech ready
  6. Don’t over-sell or ask for a job
  7. Share enough of yourself to leave them intrigued and remembering you

A Few Good Questions

  • What’s the best part of working in this areaof the business?
  • Who is the best at this role? What makes them exceptional? (those names are great people to follow-up with)
  • Who else would you recommend I talk with to gain additional perspective?
  • When you look at my current background, what’s missing to best prepare me for a job here? What additional experience would be helpful?
  • If a job were open in your department, what reservations would you have about considering me
  • Is there someone I could shadow to get to know more about this role?
Your turn. Share your stories. Have you ever had success with an informational interview on one side or another?
Filed Under:   Career & Learning, Everything Else
 
 
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.
 

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What People Are Saying

Steve Borek   |   28 May 2014   |   Reply

I was interviewed twice this month and enjoyed both interviewers. Both interviews are on youtube.
They asked great questions, shined the spotlight on me, gave me plenty of space to answer questions, and stayed out of the way.

Karin Hurt   |   28 May 2014   |   Reply

Steve, Oh yeah…. that’s so true to. These kinds of interviews can be SO MUCH FUN! Even if you decide that area’s not right for you. I too have been having a blast with all the OIB interviews. It’s so great to meet new people.

Terri Klass   |   28 May 2014   |   Reply

I am a strong supporter of informational interviews as they have also led me to new career opportunities. When I originally switched from finance to HR, I spoke with several people to get a feel for what type of opportunities might be a good fit for me. People were generous with their time and knowledge.

The millennial generation thrives on informational interviews as they are not afraid to ask, listen to feedback and explore. I have spoken with many of them. In fact, I last week I was contacted by an individual I partnered with years ago who was looking to switch careers since she had moved to an area where there were finite career opportunities in her chosen field. She asked me great questions as we explored together.

Thanks Karin!

Karin Hurt   |   28 May 2014   |   Reply

Terri, Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I so agree with you… I think this comes so much more naturally for folks who are early in their career, but we lose it as we feel we are more “established.” Keeping that inquiring reaching out spirit alive is so important.

Sara   |   28 May 2014   |   Reply

This was a great post! I have done this throughout my entire career and it is an extremely valuable technique. People get nervous when they have to reach out to the unknown and feel intimidated jumping a few rungs on the ladder to get the bird’s eye view. What a wonderful way to build confidence! Every try is worth it, we are worth it, even if we fail we can always pick ourselves up and take a different road. Relationships are the foundation of our success–Just like in your book. Thank you for the great posts, Karin!

Karin Hurt   |   28 May 2014   |   Reply

Sara, Thanks so much. I so enjoyed the “informational interview” we did once upon a time… even if we didn’t call it that. I think that not labeling it is sometimes the secret.

Theresa Softcheck   |   28 May 2014   |   Reply

Karin,
Great post! Thanks for sharing. We get so caught up in our day to day jobs and developing our own teams that we forget how important it is to continue to network and focus on our own development. This is a clear reminder.

Thank you!
Theresa Softcheck

Karin Hurt   |   28 May 2014   |   Reply

Theresa, So glad to have you in the conversation. Yes! When our head is down, it’s sometimes useful to look up… even if we’re not currently in the market.

Jon Mertz   |   28 May 2014   |   Reply

Karin,

I always enjoy getting together with people interested in our industry and working through their thought process on whether or not to make the transition. The conversations are usually engaging. Keeping an open mind (on both sides) is essential. The best ones are when the person comes prepared, meaning they did some research already on the industry and company and can have an intelligent conversation about trends, changes, and more.

Jon

Karin Hurt   |   28 May 2014   |   Reply

Jon, You raise really great points here. It’s so important to prepare well for these discussions, and to have done your homework. You never want to appear to be coming with a blank slate… it’s an important combination of learning and sharing what you have to offer. Amen.

Alli Polin   |   29 May 2014   |   Reply

It pays to be bold and take control of your career and an informational interview (or two) should definitely be a part of the mix. I’ve been happy to meet with people for informational interviews and know that it was probably a little scary to ask but when a position did open, and they made a positive impression, I kept them in mind. It was always a pleasure to see that they had actually applied down the line.

Another great piece of career advice from you, Karin!

Karin Hurt   |   29 May 2014   |   Reply

Alli,
I’m so with you. People who have reached out to me for informational interviews always come to mind when I have positions to fill. I love the proactive approach.

Jeannie Sullivan   |   29 May 2014   |   Reply

This was a great article, and it comes at a PERFECT TIME! How did you know I needed this Karin?
You are GOOD!

Thanks again for all the wisdom and insight.

Karin Hurt   |   29 May 2014   |   Reply

Jeannie, I’m SO GLAD! I love it when that happens.