The entry-level job search process can be daunting … not because there isn’t opportunity, but because there is competition. With 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees expected to be awarded across the country during the 2017-2018 school year, it’s important to get a leg up on the other candidates who are vying for the same jobs you are.
A tried and true tactic is the informational interview, in which you simply have a conversation to gain information about where you may go in your career. The person you’re speaking with may or may not have an opportunity on the horizon, which takes the pressure off of them. They can simply speak about their company, their experiences, the culture of the industry or whatever else they think you should know as you start your career. The goal is to make a connection with an organization or company that you’d like to work for, eventually, and/or start a relationship with an industry pro who can open other doors for you later.
Even though the informational interview is low-risk for the interviewer, you should be prepared to shine and be memorable. Here are some tips to keep in mind before you schedule your next informational interview.
Do your homework. Like acing an official job interview, preparation is half the battle. Be sure to research the individual you are meeting and the company they work for and come prepared with questions that are specifically tailored to them. You should also familiarize yourself with recent news and emerging trends in the industry to demonstrate your interest and understanding of the field.
Pick a strategic location. If the interview will be in person, choose a location that is convenient to the person you are meeting, like a coffee shop near their office. Whether the interview is in person, via phone or video, avoid locations that may be noisy or have loud music; you want to be able to hear what they are saying and for them to hear you. For virtual interviews, read our best practices.
Ask questions. Even though the long-term goal of an informational interview is to secure a job, you are not just there to “sell” yourself to a potential future employer. This is an opportunity to ask questions about the person’s experiences and gather advice that would be helpful for your own professional development, including the kinds of roles and organizations that would fit your skill set.
Keep in touch. Even though the interview may not generate any immediate job leads for you, it is important to stay connected. Plan to keep in touch, whether it’s to share an interesting article you found about an industry trend you discussed or to let them know if you’ve landed somewhere. Someone you meet early in your career can be an ongoing resource as you grow professionally.
Job searching can be discouraging, especially for prospective and even recent grads. But relationships matter: Begin to build them through top-notch informational interviews.