Informational Interviewing for New Grads
By: Jessica Holbrook Hernandez
Many job seekers find the networking part of a job search the most intimidating aspect. Never is this truer than for recent college grads, who often get to know new contacts by becoming their facebook friends. How do you transition to a world where face time is the way to get your name remembered and your resume read? Informational interviewing works well for many job seekers: new graduates, those looking to change careers, or just those who are curious about a new company.
Step 1: Make Contact The key to securing an informational interview is to be crystal clear that you're looking for information, not a job offer. It doesn't even matter if the company is hiring at the moment. All you're looking for is an education about who they are and what they do.
Without a specific job goal in mind, you can contact a company in the field where you generally have knowledge and expertise. For example, if you just graduated with a communications degree, you could look for alumni of your university who work for public relations firms. If you have a more specific objective in mind, then you can target a specific department at a specific company. For instance, if you want to use your communications degree in a political setting, you could reach out to the press secretary for your local Congress member.
The Meeting Although you're not interviewing for a specific position during an informational interview, you should approach the appointment like a job interview. Dress professionally and arrive with your resume prepared. However, do not offer the contact your resume until they ask for it-or offer it at the end of the meeting, if it seems appropriate.
Use the time you're given for an informational interview to ask questions. People love to talk about themselves, so you should start by asking about the specifics of their job, how they started with the company, and what they enjoy about their position. It is then appropriate to tell the contact about your background, and let them know where you are in the process of determining a good career path for yourself. It may be that they can offer straightforward advice such as telling you to obtain a specific certification. Or, it may turn out that the perspective they offer of their field helps you to realize that you need to look in a different direction..
Even if someone only gives you 10 minutes on the phone for an interview, that time is infinitely more valuable than any 10 minutes you will spend on the company's Web site. Graciously thank the contact for the time they allotted you, and follow up with a thank you note or e-mail that includes your contact information. You never know when that contact may look you up in the future!