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the Interview
Informational Interviews

Informal networking is one of the best sources of job leads. It provides you with a way to research a specific field and help you narrow your search down to specific job choices.  Informal networking helps you broaden your pool of contacts for the future as well as provide you with useful information.

SOURCES OF CONTACTS

  • Teachers, friends, relatives, and former employers -- and anyone else these people recommend.
  • Your local American Job Center office.
  • Professional associations.
  • Resource center directors or librarians.
  • Human Resource directors or public information officials.
  • Community service agencies or local chambers of commerce.
  • School alumni.

Once you've identified your contact(s), you can ask for an informational interview by phone or by mail.

Contact By Phone 

Outline what you want to say before making the call. Not only will you feel more at ease, but it will make you appear more professional and organized. If someone is referring you to the person called, make sure you say so early in the conversation. Also make sure to mention that you would need only 20-30 minutes of their time, but that you would prefer to meet in person instead of just by telephone.

When scheduling an appointment by telephone, keep these points in mind:

  • Offer a personal introduction;
  • Identify why you are requesting the appointment; and,
  • Arrange a mutually convenient time.

Contact By Mail

Follow proper business format when writing a request letter. Double check for spelling, grammar and typing mistakes. Remember to end the letter with a specific plan of action, such as a statement as to when you will arrange an appointment. The telephone contact should come approximately one week after you mail the letter. Just as with a contact by phone, the letter should include a personal introduction and your reason for requesting the appointment.  

Conducting The Informational Interview
  
Before the Interview:

  • Learn as much as you can about the company.
  • Write down any question you want to ask.
  • Learn something about the person with whom you'll be interviewing (if possible).
  • Dress professionally.
  • Bring copies of your résumé.
  • Arrive 5-10 minutes before your appointment.  

During the Interview:

  • Restate why you wanted to speak with this particular person. 
  • Be prepared to initiate the conversation - remember that you are the interviewer.
  • Keep to the original time request of 20-30 minutes.
  • Ask for referrals to other individuals or related organizations.
  • Let the person you are interviewing broach the subject of specific job opportunities.

After the Interview:

  • Send a thank you note and keep the individual you have interviewed posted on your progress. 
  • Evaluate your interviewing style and use what you've learned on future interviews.
  • Evaluate all of the information you've received. 

What To Ask

Make a list of questions you'd like answered about a career field or the company. Use open ended questions to engage the individual you are interviewing. Here are some examples:

Questions About A Career Field:

  • What kinds of positions are often found in (state the name of the career field)?
  • What skills would I need to perform the work successfully? (writing, math, leadership, etc.)
  • What kind of background would I need to do the job? (academic, experience, etc.)
  • What kind of education or training is required?
  • What is a typical entry level position in this field?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement?
  • What are some alternate ways to enter this field? (volunteer work, training, part-time work, etc.)
  • What kind of future does this career field have in terms of new opportunities?
  • Ask for any other information that might be helpful, such as a critique or your résumé, job seeking hints, etc.

Questions About The Company:

  • What are the short term and long term goals of the company?
  • What is the philosophy of the company and what kind of training is available?
  • Do you have descriptions of the various positions you have held between your entry level and current job?
  • Could you describe your current job for me?
  • What is a typical career path from entry level to top management?
     

Informational interviewing is an effective approach to career planning. It is a valuable strategy for gathering information and establishing contacts.  It just requires planning and focus to be successful.

The Interview


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