Conducting informational interviews

Conduct info interviews to network and to research employers

You’ll often hear me say that it’s important, among other things, to research potential employers and to conduct informational interviews. But what are you supposed to be looking for when you research the employer? And how do you prepare for an info interview?

In an earlier post, I discuss a way to develop a list of potential employers. Once you have that list, you’re ready to begin researching some basic information:

  • What product/service does the organization generate?
  • What population(s) does the organization serve?
  • What is the size of the organization? And, if applicable, what is the size of the department in which you’d want to work?

Much of this information can be found by reviewing the organization’s website. Ideally, you should also try to find a contact person and contact information, such as a phone number and email address – you may have to dig a bit deeper to find these. Once you’ve gathered this basic information, you can stop, or dig even deeper to get rich details about the organization, for example:

  • Who are their competitors?
  • What is their corporate culture?
  • Why did they make the most recent changes to their product/service?
  • What is the organization’s strategic plan?
  • How might the position for which you hope to apply, or the department to which you’rea applying contribute to the strategic plan?
  • What is the organization’s perceived weaknesses?

This sort of information might partially be found on the organization’s website, but you’ll likely need to spend some quality time googling the organization, reviewing trade/business journals, and asking questions. Check to see if the organization has a Facebook fan page. More and more organization’s are creating fan pages (Sweet Careers has one, by the way – don’t forget to like us!) and many do so in order to address the exact questions you’re trying to answer. This may seem like a lot of work, but it really does pay off. (This Liz Ryan article does a good job of demonstrating the difference between conducting a bit of a research and conducting in-depth research. This info interviewing grid may help you keep your research organized.)

In the process of gathering all of this information, begin thinking about how you fit the organization, how you could be a benefit to them, and how you could utlize your talents, experiences, and skills to support their mission.

Then, develop a list of questions you’d like to ask during the informational interview. For example:

  • How did you come to work for ____?
  • What are some of the characteristics of successful hires in this position?
  • Why is this position vacant?
  • What do you like best about working here?
  • I’ve read of the community impact that ABC Corp. has made in the last 2-3 years – this is something that is really important to me. What are some of ABC Corp.’s goals to continue to reach out to the community in the next few years?

And now, you’re ready to do the info interview!

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