Moving to a new country is a whole new ball game, especially when it comes to the job search process. While there are jobs galore, the ultimate challenge is to land one, and that can sometimes seem like an impossible hill to climb for any newcomer. The informational interview is a new immigrant’s best tool in Canada for just this purpose. It is the perfect way to network while simultaneously gaining information about a company, job, or field that you may be interested in.
The thing is, back in your home country it may seem easy because you know the ins and outs of the job market, you are confident about your previous work experience and you know you will eventually land a job that is commensurate to your experience and skills. In Canada or North America for that matter, landing that dream job boils down to how well you can market yourself. So how do you begin to market yourself? By creating a LinkedIn profile? By attending career fairs? The answer is yes. While creating a stellar LinkedIn profile helps display your skills to potential employers, and attending career fairs does help market yourself in a more face-to-face manner, there is more that needs to be done if you want to get your foot in the door at your dream company or in your chosen field. This is where informational interviews come in.
What is an informational interview?
In essence, an informational interview is just as the term suggests – an interview where you as a job seeker reach out to someone in a position or within a company you are interested in with the sole intention of learning more about the role or the company.
As Consultant, trainer, and master coach, Roxana Radulescu puts it, “An informational interview is less formal than a regular job interview, and is more structured and focused on learning more about an industry or roles you might be interested in. Informational means that there are two parties involved, where one party has a vested interest in extracting information from the other party, who could be well established, a potential employer or someone who could refer a newcomer to a potential employer.”
Seasoned mentor Majid Kazmi agrees and adds, “For newcomers in Canada, an informational interview is a chance to build a human connection, a rapport, and gain as many allies and supporters who can vouch for you later on.”
I’m a newcomer, how do I set up an informational interview?
In most cases, landing an informational interview will involve reaching out to strangers and attempting to convince them to make time to speak with you. And that may not be an easy task but can ultimately yield great results. And in some cases, can even lead to your dream job.
The most common advice anyone will give you about setting up an informational interview is to do your research and be selective about who you approach. LinkedIn is a great resource, where you will find information on people in roles you can see yourself in or companies you may be interested in. Consider cold contacting the person you may be interested in speaking with.
Anjali Rego, an immigrant to Canada, and seasoned PR and corporate communications professional recalls, “At the start, I wasn’t sure about the kind of roles I wanted to apply for or what roles were a good fit for me, so I looked at people whose careers inspired me, people who are at a position that I want to be in ultimately. During the entire process, I learned about different industries. It opened doors to a lot more industries, which I did not know existed. I built a network and established relationships with the people I spoke with. At the end of the day, just approaching people, having a conversation, and going your way is not what relationship building is about. I make it a point to connect and continue with that relationship even after the conversation is over.”
Majid Kazmi advises newcomers to be selective instead of sending out LinkedIn messages to random people with whom an interaction would not benefit them. “Reach out to people you know in 4 or 5 organizations you would like to work for and try to find out who the hiring managers are, then send out a regular email like you would when connecting with a stranger,” he says.
Tips to setting up a successful interview
- Remember, the informational interview format is meant for you to seek information. Do not approach someone with the intention of landing a job. If that’s the case, you will be turned down. Reassure the person that you are only seeking information.
- Start small, reach out to someone you know or in your network.
- Research the field or career you’re interested in ahead of the sit-down.
- Be prepared with your questions in case the person is available for an immediate conversation.
- Use LinkedIn to learn more about the person you are preparing to meet
- Briefly introduce yourself.
- Explain how you found them.
- Include your resume or LinkedIn profile in your message. This not only gives the person you are approaching a look at your professional background but also sets the context for the flow of the conversation.
- Not heard back? It’s possible that the person you’re trying to contact is busy or the email just got buried in their inbox. Don’t give up. This takes time. Give the person around 5 days before you follow up.
- Ask for recommendations for other people you could talk to.
While you may not have approached the person with the intention of looking for a job, if all goes well and they liked your approach, your informational interview could lead to a job interview or a referral to an opening. All the best!
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