Informational interviews put you in the driver’s seat, you become the interviewer and you can ask the questions that interest you about an occupation, field, sector or industry. Conducting an informational interview gives you the opportunity to get an insider’s perspective on the company and expert advice on your area of expertise. This type of interview can even lead to internships or job opportunities in the future.
Here are the steps you need to follow to arrange, prepare and conduct an informational interview:
STEP 1. Identify Companies & People of Interest
Create a list of target companies you would like to work at, or where you feel you can grow professionally. Take it out and start looking for connections on LinkedIn.
STEP 2. Research the Contact (a.k.a. interviewee)
At this stage of the game, you have a list of about 50 companies you’re targeting for job search purposes. Use LinkedIn to find people with job titles similar to the one you are aiming for. When conducting your research, pay special attention to peoples’ education credentials. If you find other internationally trained individuals, make a priority to contact them. Why? Because their transition journey into the Canadian Job Market will be closer to yours.
STEP 3: Initiate the Contact and Arrange the Interview
Before you contact the person, define the purpose of the interview. This step is very important, knowing why you want to get together with a specific person and what you are aiming to achieve during the meeting is a must.
In general terms your situation might be the following: You are highly skilled, you are currently working in a supervisory position in your country of origin and you’d like to secure a similar position after landing in Canada.
Contact the person to set up a quick interview, you can use email or LinkedIn as the communication channel. Identify yourself, explain that you have recently landed in Canada, and you are looking to understand how other internationally trained professionals have transitioned to the Canadian Market. As a general rule, 15 to 30 minutes should be sufficient time for the interview.
STEP 4: Prepare the Interview
Don’t over-estimate the importance of preparation. There are several activities that have to be completed during this step.
- Research all you can about the company, the career field and the person you are interviewing prior to the interview
- decide what information you would like to get from your interviewee and prepare a list of questions that you would like to have answered
- Prepare your elevator pitch
- Be ready to answer specific questions about yourself and your background
- Prepare an agenda for the meeting
- Select a professional outfit for the day of the informational interview
STEP 5: Conduct the Interview
I’m offering you another checklist for this step because checklists are easy to read and scan.
- Dress appropriately for the environment where you will be conducting the interview
- Arrive about 1o minutes early
- Bring an updated copy of your resume
- Be aware of your non-verbal communication such as your body language, eye contact, and other non-verbal gestures
- Refer to your list of prepared questions
- Ask your interviewee if s/he doesn’t mind you take notes
- Take notes, including tips, names and contact information of people your interviewee offers
- Ask your interviewee to suggest names of any others on-site or elsewhere who may be willing to talk with you and ask permission to use your contact's name when approaching these new contacts
- Before leaving, ask if you may stay in touch
- Immediately following the interview, record any additional information you didn’t write during the interview
Avoid questions around these topics:
- Personal information about your interviewee: age, marital status, home address, etc.
- Current and past salaries. Salaries are considered a private and inappropriate topic in North America
- Any topic your interviewee didn’t previously agree to address. Going off-topic may be perceived as a breach of trust and a disrespectful gesture towards your interviewee’s time
STEP 6: Thank Your New Connection and Keep in Touch
Always send a thank-you note or email within 24 hours of the interview. Thank you notes are a very effective way to keep in touch and a good way to remind people of who you are. Include your name, address, telephone number, and email.
Keep in touch with the person, especially if you had a particularly nice interaction; let him or her know that you followed up on his or her advice and how things are going as a result. This relationship could become an important part of your network.