The ultimate goal of informational interviewing is to identify potential job opportunities for you. Using work of mouth referral strategies to target key decision-makers gets you the interview; the decision-maker will meet with you because he knows and trusts the person making the referral. He knows you are interested in information and will not ask him for a job. This gives him a level of comfort that he would not have otherwise.
Prepare diligently for the interview. You want to learn as much as you can about the person, his/her management style, the workplace environment, and the organizational culture. Finding out the answers to these issues will give you a good idea of whether you would be a good fit for the organization. However, you must go further in qualifying the person and organization. During the interview you must subtly draw out the decision-maker to reveal the problems, challenges and issues he faces in achieving his goals. If you decide you can successfully address these challenges, you then have the opportunity to develop a plan to meet the needs of the decision-maker.
The single most important question you must answer while doing informational interviews is “What’s in it for the decision-maker if he hires you?” If you cannot add value, address a recognized problem, or otherwise help the decision-maker, you need to do more interviews until you find a more promising opportunity. If you can solve a decision-maker’s problem, you can then move to craft a proposal to present to him.
That’s just what a recent client of mine did. He met with the decision-maker, completed several informational interviews, identified certain key problems, and then wrote a short, but specific proposal which he subsequently presented to the decision-maker.
The response? “Wow, you must have spent a lot of time on this! It really addresses a number of my key concerns and you’ve presented a great case for your capacity to address them. I can see where you can be a tremendous asset to my firm.”
So why does informational interviewing work:
- You are referred to the decision-maker by someone he knows and trusts.
- It’s understood you are looking for information and not a job.
- After thorough preparation, you put the decision-maker at ease by asking him questions about his career, his aspirations and his company. People enjoy talking about themselves.
- You subtly inquire about his needs and determine whether you are can successfully address them. If you can
- You prepare a proposal to present to the decision-maker.
- Since the decision-maker knows you, has a good sense of how you present yourself, and now has a proposal to potentially solve one or more of his problems, he will be predisposed to give you strong consideration to bringing you on to his firm.
While there are no guarantees the proposal will get you a job, it is one of the most effective strategies for furthering your career.