Sunday, April 5, 2009

Informational Interviews

There is a lot of great job hunting information out on the web right now. GREAT resources. One topic that comes up time and time again is the 'informational interview.' Most coaches, counselors and even HR people, recommend this approach. If you seek people out and request an informational interview, I have some help for you from my perspective.
  1. I am really busy. Before you ever walk in the door, just know that. Don't expect an immediate response, nor time that particular day or even week. Don't expect prime work hours, rather expect the least convenient hours- early in the AM or end of the day PM, and really don't expect time after work hours.
  2. You aren't alone. I get at least five - ten requests for informational interviews a month. This cuts into my 'real' work and I have no job fairies who pick up the work that doesn't get done. If I say no, please understand that it is not you; rather it is a reflection of current work load, others who have already scheduled an interview and/or my availability.
  3. Watch the clock. If you come in for an informational interview, PLEASE be respectful of my time. If I say that I have 30 minutes, I mean that's what I have. It doesn't mean 45 minutes and it surely doesn't mean an hour. If I have to wrap up our conversation, you have not done well.
  4. Come prepared. Have your questions outlined and topics that you want to cover. Be concise, specific and on topic. If you come unprepared, can't think of questions or use the word UM while thinking, I will not likely continue the conversation.
  5. Don't pitch yourself. REALLY. I am not interested in hearing about you, what you studied or what you hopes and dreams are. You asked me to talk about my profession, my employer, my work. Don't talk about yourself.
  6. Don't expect the inside track. Don't ask me what jobs are open or are on the horizon. This time isn't a special, insider hour where I am going to give you tips, hints and ideas on how to get hired at my employer.
  7. Listen. You came here to talk to me so let me speak. Don't interrupt, correct and argue with me. The worse informational interview on my books was a young professional who argued with me on our search process. No.
  8. Leave your baggage at the door. I do not want to hear about your problems, issues or work situations. I am not a personal job coach nor do I have the time to help you solve your lack of mobility, success or promotion. If you speak badly of your boss, colleagues or employer, I will remember that.
  9. Once is enough. Unless invited, it's not okay to call me in six months and ask for a second meeting.
  10. Remember your manners. Be nice to the office staff. Be nice to me. You aren't entitled to time with busy professionals and this is the gift of time. So thank me. Thank the staff. And it would be REALLY nice to send a thank you note after.
Feel free to add to this list as you seek out informational interviews.


Lisa Rosendahl said...

An infomrational interview done right will leave the interviewer with a very positive impression of the interviewee and maybe, just maybe, could lead to opportunities or connections down the line. Nice post!

Anonymous said...

These are great tips and I agree. As someone who has found myself agreeing to an information interview only to have the person violate the tips above, I'm curious about how you handle it. Do you call them on it? Cut the meeting short? What do you say?

Anonymous said...

I would think that most of these tips would hold true during an actual interview.

HR Maven said...

Lisa, thanks for visiting. You are always a delight!

Anonymous 1 - it depends on a couple of things. If the person is new to the workforce, I may provide some feedback and coaching on the purpose of the meeting. Especially if I am the first interview (I work at a college and get students who come to see me). If in my opinion it is someone who should know better, I will reiterate the purpose of the meeting and say the question asked is not within the topic. There isn't a pat answer for me - it just depends on the conversation and the intent. I like helping by I don't like feeling used. If I feel like that line got crossed, I will end the interview. I also try to schedule other appointments so I can't go long.

Anonymous 2 - I think that you are right though in a real interview, I want the other person talking, not me. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Steve Boese said...

Really great list of tips for someone seeking an informational interview. You once again do a fantastic job of grounding us all in the day-to-day reality of running a busy HR department. Super post.

Sabrina said...

This was really helpful; it also scared me. Thanks for the tips!