Informational interviews are for newbies, neophytes, and recent grads, right? Right, but also wrong.
Certainly, they can be invaluable intel-gathering tools for those early on in their careers. But why on this earth would you think you’re “too old” to book a similar session in year five, 12, or 15 of your career?
Often, people think this because they’re uncomfortable with the idea of asking for help once they’re supposed to be “seasoned professionals.” And so, they just chalk up their lack of initiative to age. Or poo-poo the idea as being overrated or useless.
That’s not only dumb, but it could also lead to an important opportunity missed.
1. Informational Interviews May Lead to “Insider Scoop”
Have you ever read a job description and then gone in for an interview, only to discover that the needs of the organization overall were way different than what you read online? This is a fairly common occurrence in the world of staffing and recruitment.
They aren’t always “up-to-the-minute” because they could be age-old relics that the company dishes up over and over every time the position opens up.
A conversation with someone on the inside—especially someone who knows how that department runs and what the hiring manager’s challenges are—may arm you with data that your competition simply will not have. This data could be mighty useful as you figure out how to approach and prepare for your interview.
2. Informational Interviews May Lead to an “Inside Connection”
Even though the entire purpose of this conversation is to gather information (thus, the reason why they are not called “strong-arm-someone-at-my-dream-company-to-put-in-a-good-word-for-me” interviews), you could end up developing rapport with someone of influence at that company.
This rapport, in the best of circumstances, could lead to a valuable introduction to the hiring manager or some other vital insider that could positively influence whether you land an interview, or not.
Don’t get me wrong, you should never enter this type of meeting with the sole intention or hope of scoring such an introduction. But it’s certainly possible. It’s not possible if you rely 100% on an online application sent through a blind mailbox.
If you conduct your entire job search in this passive manner, you’re missing out on an incredible opportunity to become a person in the overall equation, rather than a commodity.
3. Informational Interviews May Make You Change Your Mind
This is especially relevant for anyone considering a career pivot. How much do you know about that job or industry that you’re thinking would be a great next career move? Not much? Well then, book a few informational interviews with people head-first in that sector.
You may discover that you’re even more interested than ever after these conversations. Or, you might realize that things aren’t as rosy as you’d envisioned, and you’ll dodge the bullet before you get too invested in the move.
4. Informational Interviews Can Show Fearlessness and Proactivity
Think about the professionals you admire the most. Are they timid order takers? Um, probably not. I can think of more than a handful of people who I consider the gold standard in the working world, and among the traits that earn them a spot on my short list, are fearlessness and proactivity.
Nothing will stand in their way to explore what interests them, gather information, introduce themselves to thought leaders, and make a freaking mark. Don’t get me wrong. They’re not annoyingly relentless and ambush-like in their approach. Instead, they approach with genuine interest and curiosity.
You’re competing with these people, and you’re going to be evaluated from your very first introduction point. That said, if your first introduction point hints to the person on the receiving end that you’re fearless in the best of ways? You could be off to a great start.
(And, at the very least, you could collect some information that’ll help you move forward more quickly than the rest of the schlemps who are sitting around thinking they’re too old for informational interviews.)
Now that I’ve convinced you that you’re never too old, here’s how you can reach out in a way that won’t make you feel like you just graduated yesterday:
In doing some research on XYZ Company, I noticed that you recently led the organization’s (most impressive) rebranding effort. I’m a marketing leader with specific experience with brand development and management. May I ask you just a couple of quick questions about your work at XYZ, and how you created such an impact in a relatively short amount of time?
Thank you for your time,
In this example, the person shows genuine, specific interest in the other person’s work and accomplishments (thoughtful flattery will get you everywhere). She then asks if she may get just a bit of information, thus making it an easy “yes.”
Now, assuming that initial interaction goes well, the requester will then have an opportunity to build a bit of rapport and (perhaps) ask the person out for a quick coffee to discuss things further. Done.
Labels can harm. “Too old,” “Too junior,” “Too newbie,” or “Too 15 years ago” are great ways to rationalize not reaching out to influential people at companies of interest. They’re great excuses that’ll enable you to avoid learning more about industries that you may want to transition into. And they’re great in that they’ll make life easy for you in the short-term.
But, if informational interviews may help you accelerate your career transition or land something you may have never even known about had you not proactively reached out to the key players?
Why on this earth are you avoiding them?
Your competitors—whether they are 27 or 47—are meeting influencers through informational interviews. Don’t you think it might be smart for you to book some, too?
Photo of informational interview courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.
Jenny Foss is a career strategist, recruiter, and the voice of the popular career blog JobJenny.com. Based in Portland, OR, Jenny is the author of the Ridiculously Awesome Resume Kit and the Ridiculously Awesome Career Pivot Kit. Also check out the Weekend Resume Makeover Course, find Jenny on Twitter @JobJenny, and book one-on-one coaching sessions with her on The Muse's Coach Connect.More from this Author