Asking for Advice, Not a Job: How to Conduct Informational Interviews

Megan Yasenchak is a current graduate student at NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies, pursuing a Masters in Global Affairs.  She attended the NYU Wasserman Center@SCPS career event, entitled, “Asking for Advice, Not a Job: How to Conduct Informational Interviews” which was presented by Rachel Frint, Associate Director, NYU Wasserman Center at SCPS.  In competitive job markets, informational interviews are a key resource to assist job seekers by expanding and cultivating their career networks.

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What is Informational Interviewing?

Informational interviewing is a form of networking with experts from your field or a related industry. It is a personal meeting, one-on-one, where you are leading the conversation with that person by asking them for advice, insight and guidance in developing your career path. In these meetings, you ask questions about their own career experiences and their organizations as well. This process allows you to make a positive impression on an expert outside of the confines of a traditional job interview.

Why is Informational Interviewing important?

Informational interviewing is asking for resources, not asking for a job. However, informational interviewing may connect you to job opportunities. Frequently, employers do not post all of their vacancies through public announcements. These un-posted vacancies are referred to as the “hidden job market,” which accounts for nearly 70% of job opportunities.

Through informational interviewing, a job seeker leaves an impression with that industry expert. You are investing your time in building a relationship with the expert that can lead to, potentially, other future industry contacts. This networking could result in job opportunities.

How To Identify Potential Contacts

Everyone is a potential contact. There are “strong” connections, such as family and friends and “weak” connections, like classmates, former co-workers or new acquaintances at events. Use your personal network, professional associations, social media and the Wasserman Center to expand your connections!

How To Initiate an Informational Interview

First, identify who you are (i.e. your brand), what do you want to communicate, what are your goals and how you can maintain this relationship.

When requesting an informational interview, be clear and direct in your request. Introduce yourself and explain any connection, why you would like to meet and how you would like to connect (e.g. telephone, in person, video chat).

How to Conduct the Informational Interview

Your informational interview is to gain insight from an industry expert. Be prepared for the meeting by thinking of topics of conversation, conducting research on that person and/or organization and think of questions. Informational interviewing is your chance to gain critical insight into your career field from experts!

After the Informational Interview

Your goal is to maintain this relationship and build connections, especially after the meeting. Remember to send a quick thank you note (within 24 hours). Maintain the relationship by sending your contact an update on your professional life (every 1-3 months).

 Maintaining so many current and future contacts may seem daunting; so divide your connections into a manageable list. Meet with new one person every week. Try to schedule one informational interview every month. Reconnect with one former contact every week.

To develop your own career strategies for building a network, schedule an appointment with a NYU Wasserman Center Career Coach through NYU CareerNet

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