Have you ever been interested in a specific company or want information about a job opening you’ve seen on a website? Informational interviews are a great way to learn about a company, their direction, potential needs and culture. Think of it as a pre-screening conversation that may save you and the target organization a great deal of time and effort. How do you go about getting that information? Here are some suggestions:
- First, do your own research. Check out company websites, employee comments on social media, LinkedIn reviews and public publications like annual reports, K-4’s and financial data from articles in major newspapers
- The best source of information are the people who know the company best and are aware of what’s going on: Mutual connections, employees, customers and even competitors. Make a list of these contacts and add to the list as your investigation expands.
- Make a list of the key question you’d like answered. Since you only have a few minutes to talk to a recruiter or manager, focus on the key five questions you’d like answered rather than a list of 20 random questions.
- Questions usually apply to two areas: The company and/or the job. Company questions should concentrate on organizational values and culture. Questions about the job might target expectations and crucial skills/experiences mandated.
- The easiest contact point are your personal connections. A second source can be the human resources or recruiting department of companies in which you’re interested. It’s their job to find talent. They would have more information than a regular employee.
- The three alternatives I have found that gets the greatest positive responses are:
- A call or email to your direct contact asking for a pre-arranged telephone call or zoom conference of no more than 15 minutes of their time. Mention your high level of interest and before making application you’d like some preliminary information. You might want to mention (if true) that you have a specific skill for which the organization is looking.
- A call or email asking for an informational interview of 15 minutes, with either coffee in the morning before work or at a lunch break.
- If you have a contact in the company and they are willing to introduce you into the company. The highest priority would be the hiring manager, a recruiter or an employee in the department where the job is located.
- Once you have set up an informational interview, prepare your questions and practice your approach beforehand. Be personable, have your portfolio of experiences ready to respond to questions they may have about your background. Special emphasis should be on results that the hiring manager is looking for in a candidate.
Is an informational interview of value to gain insights into a company your interested in? Yes. Will it be very easy to accomplish without some work on your part? No. But it’s well worth the effort.
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