Informational interviews — gag me with a spoon. They call it an informational “interview” because… it’s a veiled job interview. The challenge is how to get the information you need in the right setting. And an interview ain’t it.
In the October 13, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader questions advice she was given by a career counselor about informational interviews. Lucky she asked.
I know that I’m supposed to call the people I know in decision-making positions in my field to set up appointments for “informational interviews.” A career counselor I’m working with suggests that I should say, “I was wondering what unmet needs you have now or anticipate down the road.” But it just doesn’t sound natural or productive to me. I bet you have a better idea.
Gimme a break and fire your career counselor, who is telling you to go embarrass yourself by asking for a job with a wink and a nod. Imagine asking that exact same question in an attempt to get a date with someone… Urrrrgh.
Why is every interaction between a job hunter and an employer assumed to be some kind of interview? Why can’t we just have a little talk? You know — talk shop. Discuss business. Share information and insight. Everything doesn’t have to be a dad-blasted interview.
This means you have to shake loose from talking about “the job,” “a job,” “an opening,” “an unmet need,” (Jeeze, I wouldn’t touch that one even with a lawyer in tow…) or anything having to do with getting hired.
And that means talking to the manager in a different setting. What industry associations does she belong to? Where does she take professional development courses? Does she volunteer somewhere? Find out where you can run into her, then do it. Assuming you really want to learn something new, here’s How to Say It:
“Hi, nice to meet you. I know you work for ABC Company. I’ve always admired ABC’s stature in its field. Could I ask you something? What’s your opinion of this industry and where it’s going? What do you think are the hurdles and opportunities coming down the pike?”
This can easily turn into a talk about her company and even about her department. And that’s the beginning of your “informational” discussion, if that’s what you really want.
If what you really want is an excuse for a job interview, I can’t help you. Don’t mix up job hunting with a peer-to-peer discussion with someone in your field. It’s rude.
Am I wrong? What’s the best way to say it, and in what setting?
I think it’s legit (and smart) to learn all you can about an industry, a company and a job. But is the “informational interview” a legit way to do it? I don’t think so. (I discussed this topic in another post, Informational (heh-heh) Interviews over a year ago. But don’t look at that til you’ve posted your comments here!)