BOB LANKARD: The neglected resource
The information interview is a low-pressure discussion with a resource person to learn about a job, an occupational field, an organization or an industry.
It is not a job interview. For example a dislocated worker looking into training talks to an over the road truck driver he met a barber shop about what tractor-trailer driving is really like. Katie has an interview with XYZ Company as an entry level clerical person and she asks her uncle who works in the shipping department what it’s like to work there. A senior engineering student calls an alumnus asking his advice about places he might pursue jobs.
Information interviewing is a way of getting more personal information and could help avoid a wrong turn in one’s career. It is neglected because people lack confidence in asking for help.
The face-to-face approach has an advantage over written material because the written material is too general.
Talking to a person at the place of business gives you a feel for the atmosphere of the workplace. Some change their minds after one informational contact.
Your contact may offer support advice, and assess the future marketability of a career down the road.
The contact will have insider information. You will learn not only what is good about a job, but also what is hard about it. Most guidance office materials soft-sell some of a job’s negative aspects.
You will develop an insider contact for when you are actually job searching.
Don’t be apprehensive to contact people for an informational interview.It is true that some may blow you off.
It has been my experience as an employment counselor that people love to talk about what they do all day. They would be flattered that someone would seek their advice.
It is best if you have something in common with the person you are approaching for an informational interview. They do not have to be an uncle or a next-door neighbor, but someone you might not know but who graduated from the same college would be a good contact.
Explain to the person that you will only take 20 to 30 minutes and you are not using them to get you a job.
Plan your visit carefully. ask questions that elicit more than a yes or no answer. Here are some potential questions:
• What do you do on a typical workday?
• What do you like most/least about your work?
• What kinds of problems do you face?
• What special advice would you give a person entering this field?
• What attracted you to this field of work?
• What do you see as the future for this field of work?
• What abilities are best for succeeding in this type of work?