How to make the most of a 30-minute informational interview
Whether you’re fresh out of university or a newcomer in the Canadian labour market, getting a suitable job in your desired field is not always easy. The path to employment can be fraught with dead-ends and disappointment. This is where a 30-minute informational interview can be your saviour, especially if you’ve recently immigrated to the country.
An informational interview is possibly the most important tool in your job search arsenal as it grants job seekers like you the opportunity to network and gain access to occupational information.
Also read: What is an informational interview and how to land one as a newcomer to Canada
This informal form of learning more about an industry, a company, and the work culture is also the perfect opportunity for you to impress the interviewer with their prowess and potentially land a job in the company.
Once you’ve landed that 30-minute informational interview, the big question is how do you make the most of this short-format interview that usually lasts no more than 30 minutes.
Treat the informational interview exactly how you would treat a regular job interview
Be prepared, and research the company and the professional contact you are meeting with. In today’s day and age, there is no dearth of information online. Use social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn to find out more about the company, the individual, what they’re currently working on, goals, achievements, etc. This will give you an idea of what you could discuss with the person you are about to meet. This will show that you are interested and could also give you an ice-breaker to start your conversation.
Prepare a fixed set of key questions
Remember, this is a short-format interview where your chief goal is to get maximum information. But that does not mean that you can go in with a never-ending list of questions. Based on your research, jot down a few key questions that you would like to ask and get ready to take the reins of the conversation. The contact you are meeting will not be taking charge of the conversation. Let the conversation flow and ask your questions along the way.
As Consultant, Trainer and Master Coach, Roxana Radulescu says, “At the end of the day, while you do want your questions answered, you also want to develop connections. You want that person to remember you.”
An informational interview is your opportunity to make a good impression, so when opportunities do show up at the company, you are at the forefront of your contact’s mind. “It’s not whom you know, it’s about who knows what you can do,” Roxana adds.
Be an active listener and take notes
A conversation is between two or more people and as such can come across as highly transactional or one-sided if all you are doing is asking questions and not engaging with the person you are speaking with. Be attentive, listen, understand and engage your contact in the conversation. Steer the conversation and remember to take notes.
Do not ask for a job during an informational interview
This is not the usual run-of-the-mill kind of interview, and it is definitely not a job interview. An informational interview is not about a job or whether the company has anything available for you at that moment. One thing that you should never ask for at an informational interview is a job. Doing that could likely make the situation awkward and can cost you any help from your contact in the future. In the words of Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Watch this Café New Canadians panel discussion: Get ahead in your career in Canada with informational interviews
Say thank you
At the end of the day, it is always good to be grateful to the person for taking the time to speak with you and offer their advice. Always follow up with a note to say thank you irrespective of whether you found the interview helpful or not. Send an email expressing your gratitude and maybe consider sending a hand-written note as well because that is an action that will make a lasting impression and may even open up a channel for ongoing conversation and could lead to future career opportunities.
If for some reason you do not receive a response, don’t lose heart. The person you are trying to contact could be busy or has just forgotten. Give them about a week or two before you attempt to contact them again and remember to be polite and kind in your approach. If you still don’t hear back, move on and focus on your next informational interview.
With each passing 30-minute informational interview interaction, you will not only gain more information but also improve your confidence and communication skills and that will come in handy during a job interview.
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