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Job Search Skills & Techniques

Consider “warm” methods of building connections, such as information interviews.=

One of the most powerful methods of building your career connections is informational interviewing. Informational interviews (or "career research interviews") involve connecting with selected people in your targeted field to ask about their careers and what they do in their current positions. Generally, you can expect to spend 20-30 minutes in the interview. You will add to the number of people who can be actively keeping an eye on job opportunities for you and it is an excellent way to gather such information as:

  • What jobs might be available or coming open for which you would be suited.
  • Who’s hiring/expanding/growing.
  • How to present yourself in a way that is consistent with your target employer’s image, philosophy, and future needs.
  • Types of jobs, what’s involved in them, and their usual salary ranges.
  • Details about a company’s policies, products, market, vision, philosophy.
  • A company’s promotion and human resources policies.

Asking for an Informational Interview                 

  • Telephone or email a person directly to request an informational interview. You are not asking for a job. Explain that you are seeking advice and information.
  • Follow-up in a few days if you don’t receive a response initially.
  • Introduce yourself and explain why you’d like to interview the person.
  • Request a scheduled time to either meet. Ask for 20 minutes of the person’s time. (Make sure you keep within the time limit at the meeting!)
  • Be understanding if the person is not able to meet with you as soon as you would like, or is unavailable for the foreseeable future. S/he may be able to suggest someone else you could interview.

Preparing for an Informational Interview

  • Learn as much as you can ahead of time about the occupation and the company.
  • Be ready to answer potential questions about your areas of interests, previous experiences, and career goals.
  • Determine beforehand what you want to know. Create a list of 5-6 questions.
  • Have your resume ready be prepared to take notes.

Planning Your Questions

Here are some questions you may want to ask. Select 5-6 of the questions that appeal to you, or create others that will give you the information you need while exploring your career path:

A key question to consider asking is: "When you view my resume, what positions come to mind?" This invites mental matching.

  • How long have you been working in this role? In this field?
  • How did you get into this occupation?
  • What is a typical day like for you?
  • What are the personal qualities that are important in this role?
  • What kind of person does well in this sort of work?
  • What are your key responsibilities?
  • What do you enjoy most in your job?
  • What aspects of your job do you find less enjoyable?
  • What learning path would you recommend in order to prepare for this sort of work?
  • Where would a person with my current background fit best in this field?
  • What are the most common challenges in this department/organization?
  • Which relevant professional associations would you recommend?
  • Where do you see a job like yours leading to within this field?
  • What suggestions would you have for me as I pursue this career path?
  • Who else should I talk to about this field? Could I use your name when I contact him/her?

Conducting the Informational Interview

  • Thank the person for setting aside the time to meet with you.
  • Restate your purpose in meeting with the person.
  • Ask your prepared questions.
  • Listen closely to the person you are interviewing. Take some notes during the meeting and record more information after the session. During the session itself, try to remain focused on the person more than your questions and notes.
  • Stay away from overly personal questions. Even if you happen to know the person quite well, remember that this is a professional meeting with a specific purpose.
  • Look for an opportunity to show your resume and/or your career portfolio and ask the person what positions come to mind.
  • As you close the interview, you may want to ask for additional information on referrals, related websites, professional associations or other relevant resources.
  • Respect the person’s time; keep within the agreed-upon time limit.

After the Informational Interview

  • Send a thank-you card or an email of appreciation.
  • Evaluate the information you obtained and also how you conducted the interview. If you would do something differently next time, make a note to self.
  • Regarding the interview you just completed, ask yourself:
    • Does the person use the skills I want to use?
    • Would I currently be qualified for his/her job?
    • Do I understand what the job really involves?
    • Would I enjoy working in this capacity?
    • Did I get ideas for other career options?
    • What impression (positive or negative) do I now have about this area of work?
    • Would I enjoy working for this company?
    • What are the goals or needs of this area of work?
  • How can I help meet those goals or needs?

Keep your answers to these questions and your notes from the interview in a career research file.