“I really want to work for this company in my town, but they don’t have any job or volunteer opportunities available. What can I do?” — Arjuli from Roanoke, VA
Thanks for your question, Arjuli. One of the best things you can do to get to know this employer and demonstrate your interest in the company is to conduct an informational interview. According to CareerBuilder,
While books, trade publications and websites are great resources, there’s nothing quite as effective as gathering information firsthand. That’s why you should consider conducting informational interviews, or meetings that you schedule with practicing professionals for the purpose of learning more about their jobs. This type of interview provides a rare opportunity to gain invaluable, up-to-date knowledge about a specific business or industry from an insider.
In short, instead of the employer interviewing you, make an appointment to interview them. Below are some tips for how to get started.
Find the right person to speak with.
One of the first steps to conducting an informational interview is determining who you want interview. Start with your networks first – if a friend, classmate or family member works for that company, see if they can recommend a contact with whom you should speak. If you don’t have any internal connections, jump on LinkedIn to research the names and titles of current employees who work there. Lastly, some companies provide staff names and contact information on their website, so it’s worth taking a look there as well.
Get in touch.
Once you know with whom you want to speak, reach out to the person with your request. Demonstrate that you respect his/her time by requesting to speak for 20-30 minutes on the day and time that is most convenient to the person. Clearly state that you’re seeking an informational interview only, and provide some brief details about your background and career goals, as well as what you hope to achieve during the interview.
(Briefly) introduce yourself.
Unlike a traditional job interview — where the focus is on the employer collecting information from you — informational interviews entail you collecting information from the employer. At the beginning of your meeting, briefly restate your work experience and education, your career goals and why you’re interested in learning more about the company.
Make the most of your time.
Use the time that you have with your contact wisely and avoid asking questions for which the answers are already publicly available on the company’s website. Instead, ask questions about how the person got started in their field, what they like (and don’t) about their job, what a typical day might be like, what the company likes to see in people it hires and more.
Keep job talk short.
It’s okay to mention that you’re currently exploring new career avenues and are interested in hearing about any future job opportunities that may come available at the company. Just make this conversation short. An employer understands that you wouldn’t be conducting an informational interview with a company if you didn’t on some level have a desire to work there, and you don’t want to sound like you’re fishing for a job.
Follow up after the interview.
Just as you would with a traditional interview, be sure to send a thank you note or email following the conversation thanking the person for their time and the information they provided. If your contact welcomed you to follow up with him or her down the road, ensure you do so to keep the relationship going.
Finally, remember that informational interviews can be done at any time with any company, as long as you find someone willing to speak with you. In addition to talking with the main company in which you’re interested, you may want to schedule informational interviews with other employers in your region to start building relationship and get a better idea of the options in your town. Good luck!