How do you know if the company you are applying to will meet all of your needs? Why do you think you are a fit for the role? What don't you know about the company's culture that may derail your career plan?
Getting the answers to these questions before accepting a job with a company is imperative to creating a successful career plan. Applicants usually make the mistake of not talking with professionals in the industry or employees at a company where they desire to work to find out if the job or the culture is a fit. As part of your interview preparation process, it is important to uncover what you may not know. Like the mock interview, an informational interview is an underutilized tool that can give applicants essential insights and great connections before starting with a new company. Most people don't use this tactic because they fear people won't accept the invitation.
This is the one job prep tactic you can't afford not to try. Most people will share what they know as long as you are professional in your approach. Find out what you can do to gain the information you need and build relationships.
Conduct your own research about the company before you engage anyone for the informational interview. You have access to public information about the company via the internet. This will eliminate wasting time for data that is available and will inform your questions for more in-depth answers.
Approach every interview with the intent of making a real connection. Coming across superficial, opportunistic, and self-serving will immediately send red flags to your contact who may either reject your invitation or be reluctant to share real experiences that can give you the insight you need.
Be flexible with your time since it is you who is seeking information and insight. Time is money; your contact can surely use his or her time for something else.
IMPORTANT: Be professional and approach the informational interview like you would a real meeting. At every stage of the job search process, you are being observed by those you encounter along the way. Making the mistake of being unprofessional, too casual, or using poor judgment can hinder your opportunity to join the company you are targeting.
The easiest way to find contacts who will share insights about their company is to look at who you already know. If you have been actively networking, you should either have a connection with the company you are targeting or know someone who does.
1) If the contact is in your network, invite him or her for coffee, lunch, or "virtual coffee" to talk about the company.
2) If a contact in your network knows someone who works for the company, ask them to make a formal introduction through email. As soon as the email is sent, "reply all" to keep your contact on the email for support.
Introduce yourself and ask to meet via conference call, coffee, or lunch. Make sure you allow the contact to share their availability and convenience.
3) If you nor your contacts know anyone, search LinkedIn to see the profiles of those employed or previously employed. Send an Inmail to let them know you are considering employment with the specific company and would like to assess whether the culture is a fit for your needs.
4) Before attending the interview, make sure you are familiar with your contact's profile (background, experience, accomplishments). Research could be conducted via LinkedIn, Google, or your immediate colleague if they provided you with the contact.
DURING THE INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW
2) Come with documented questions
3) Don't ask personal questions unless the contact shares his or her information first
4) Don't take more time than you scheduled, keep track of time and close out the interview a couple of minutes before the end
Once you have met with your contact, thank him or her with an email or written note. Make sure to keep track of all the details you are gathering from your conversations and compile your records. It's important to schedule the time to talk with a mentor or career coach about your findings.
Don't forget to connect via LinkedIn with your new contacts and determine how you can return the favor. You should use this connection as an opportunity to add to your network and build relationships.
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