Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Information Interviews

In my last blog posting I talked about the importance of researching school’s before selecting which one you attend for training. The same level of importance can be placed when planning your first or second career. While there are many different ways to research careers; one useful technique that job seekers can use is the Information Interviews. These can be used to learn more about an industry as well as having the benefit of building your network and smoothing the transition into a new career.

While there are many benefits to conducting Information Interviews most job seekers are not aware of how to present this concept to an employer and instead use it as an attempt to bypass the hiring process and secure a job interview. The following information will help you to effectively request an Information Interview with an employer and help you to succeed in getting the information that you need. 

What Are The Benefits Of An Information Interview?

An Information Interview conducted correctly can benefit a job seeker in several of the following areas:

        Increased knowledge of their target industry / employer
        Increased exposure to employers
        Exploring a specific industry to see if it is a good fit for you
        Learn tips to enhance your job search methods
        Developing a solid networking contact
        Referral to other employers and networking contacts
        Potential job offer or prior knowledge of future job opportunities – (accessing the hidden job market)

What An Information Interview Is Not  

Before we talk about how to secure an Information Interview it is worth pointing out that Information Interviews are not about:

Asking for a job
        Selling the employer something
        Wasting everybody’s time

How To Find People To Interview

As an Information Interview is a way of utilizing and extending a network, the first place that you should look when attempting to arrange one is the same place you would look when you started to build your network and that is with your closest contacts such as:

        Placement Supervisors

Moving outside of this circle the following areas are places where you can find potential individuals to connect with for an Information Interview as well as general information regarding specific industries:

Teachers / Instructors
        Conferences / Workshops
        Professional Associations
        Service Organizations
        Employment Resource Centres
        Social Media Sites (LinkedIn)

Finally you can contact organizations that you are interested in and ask who you would need to speak to regarding information on that organization.

How To Request An Interview

The easiest way to connect with an employer to request an Information Interview is either directly through email or via a networking site such as LinkedIn. It is possible to connect with someone over the phone however it may take several phone calls before you get through to the employer if you even get past the receptionist. An email is more direct and in terms of how busy an employer may be will allow them time to get back to you.

When you create your request you will need to address four specific points

        An opening statement that mentions how you got their contact information
        A summary statement of who you are and why you are contacting them
        A statement requesting an opportunity to meet and what you would like to discuss with them
<!--[if !supportLists]-->×          <!--[endif]-->A closing statement thanking them for their time

General Tips

The following are some tips to bear in mind when you are creating your interview request.

        Begin with a clear subject line (i.e. Request for an Information Interview)
        Keep your email professional, avoid phrases such as ‘Hi’ and the use of slang/emoticons
        Pay attention to spelling and grammar
        Set a specific time goal so that employers won’t feel like they are wasting their time
        Do not include your resume (even though you are tempted)
        Include your contact details (such as phone number / LinkedIn Profile under the signature line)

Example Email Requests

Example request with a referral from an individual:

Dear Mr Smith,

Andrew Bassingthwaighte, Employment Consultant at the Employment Resource Centre provided me with your email address. As a student of the ABC College's Community Worker program I am seeking to learn more about careers with the field of Social Services and he thought you might be able to provide me with some useful information. 

If you are able to find time, I would like to meet with you in person for 20 minutes to interview you about your career; either at your office or over coffee.

Thank you for considering my request and I look forward to your reply. 


Joe Bloggs

Example request when you don't have a referral:

Dear Mr Smith,

My name is Joe Bloggs and I came across your name through the Canadian Career Information Association group on LinkedIn where we are both members. To give you the
basics of my situation, I am currently going through a career change in my life where I am
transitioning from the manufacturing industry to the Social Services field.

If possible I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you for 20 minutes either in
person or on the telephone for an information interview, as I wish to learn to more about
your organization and to discuss any improvements that I would need to make to help me
find work in this sector upon graduation. 

I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Joe Bloggs

Things To Remember

One of the main things that you want to be aware of is that this is an interview. So no matter where it is being held, it should be treated with the same amount of professionalism as a job interview. 

        Research the company so you can develop some appropriate questions
        Call the day before to confirm your appointment
        Dress professionally (aim for a step above the workplace but be comfortable)
        Arrive 5 – 10 minutes early
        Bring your list of questions and a notepad/pen to take notes
        Start the interview with a brief summary of your situation and restating why you are interviewing them
        Don’t ambush the employer by asking for a job
        Don’t monopolize their time, keep the interview to what you stated in the email
        Only offer a resume if they ask to see it or if you feel they can help you critique it    
        Remember to ask for the persons business card so you have their accurate contact details
        After the interview send a Thank You note within 24 hours of meeting them