However, I’ve read some articles recently that say information interviewing is a worn-out tool — that don’t have the time or inclination to do them anymore. In an informal poll of my friends, most agree they wouldn’t want to be bothered by some stranger asking lots of questions about their jobs.
What should I believe? Are Information interviews passé, or are they still a valuable job search technique?
A: Information interviews have not outlived their usefulness. Potential interviewees are still willing to do them because:
♦ People like to be ”the expert.”
♦ People like to talk about themselves and their work.
♦ And most people like to exercise their altruistic inclinations.
In information interviews, human nature generally works in your favor if you give it half a chance. To make the process effective, you must approach it systematically. It’s the haphazard, unprepared career changer who brings out the worst in potentially helpful people. To assure yourself the greatest number of successful contacts, be sure to do the following:
- Develop a generic job description that includes the skills, values and responsibilities you want in your new career. When people ask, “What do you want to do?” they don’t need a specific job title. But they do expect an answer that indicates some serious forethought.
- Have a list of intelligent questions that will both get the information you need and impress your interviewee with your businesslike approach. Usually asking the person about him or herself is sufficient. However, a few well-chosen inquiries about his company or industry can score valuable extra points in building your credibility.
- To get background on specific organizations, read corporate reports, trade journals and business magazines before scheduling your appointment.
- Make a list of your friends and their friends, as well as members of your church, fraternal groups or volunteer organizations. All of them are potential sources for information interviews, whether they work in fields that intrigue you or have friends who might. Naturally, individuals are more amenable to talking to you if they know that a friend or acquaintance suggested you call.
- Start with the easy interviews and work your way up to the ones that are scary and require cold calls. If you put these last, your previous successful experiences will bolster your self-confidence and motivate you to take risks.
- Ask for 30 minutes and don’t overstay your time unless your interviewee’s schedule permits and his interest is clear.
- Always send a prompt, typed or handwritten thank-you note. This gesture not only emphasizes your thoughtfulness, but puts your name in front of a potential employer in a most favorable light.
- Follow up if you said you would. Remember, it’s your responsibility to pursue a new career. Don’t expect interviewees to get back to you. That’s your job.
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.
In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997. In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.