Tired of sending out resumes and waiting for companies to call you? Why not take charge and call them first! To learn more about what kind of job will be right for you and to make valuable job contacts in the process, try doing some informational interviews.
An informational interview is a meeting you initiate with a professional working in a particular job or field that interests you. The purpose of the meeting or "interview" is not to ask for a job, but to ask for information. To make an informed career choice, you should understand what it is like to work day-to-day in your chosen profession. For example, through informational interviews, you can discover whether you would be happier at a large corporation, or a small business, working as an HR generalist, or as a specialist.
Informational interviewing is an excellent way to build a network of contacts, learn more about possible career paths, and tap into the "hidden job market." Such meetings will help you to improve your interview skills and build your confidence. In addition, you will make yourself known to professionals who could hear about future job openings and think of you.
To help you get started, the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point chapter offers the following ten pointers:
Focus on gathering information about the profession/position not on finding a job.
Be an active listener. Remember to ask follow-up questions; such as, "Tell me more" or "What did you mean by that?"
Do some background research on the company as this will enable you to ask more relevant questions about the profession.
Ask how the person got into the profession and what advice they would give to someone just getting started.
During the interview, use appropriate names or titles. Ask the person how they prefer to be addressed. Some people want you to use their first names, others prefer the more formal Mr., Ms., Dr. etc.
Dress professionally and project a mature, confident image.
Avoid using slang terms during the conversation. Profanity or off-color jokes are never acceptable.
Ask permission first if you plan to tape-record the interview.
Always remember to ask "Who else can I talk to?" You should leave the interview with 2-3 names of other professionals you can contact.
Ask the person what articles, books, or magazines they recommend to help you learn about the profession.
Suggested questions to ask:
How did you get into this profession?
What do you like best about your job?
What do you like least?
What is the most frustrating situation you deal with?
What type of training would you recommend for someone planning to enter this field?
What is a typical career path in this profession?
What books or publications would you recommend to help me learn more about the field?
Are you a member of any professional associations? Which one(s)? How have they helped you in your career?
Would you take a moment to review my resume and let me know how I can improve it?
Is there any other advice you have for someone entering the field?
Who else can I talk to about this profession?
Check your library for career planning books that describe and explain informational interviewing and conducting a proactive job search. Many excellent books and articles are available.