Studies agree that networking is the leading source of hires. But many professionals find networking overwhelming and cringy. What if you don’t have very many personal connections? What if you don’t have any connections in the right industry or companies? And how can you network without feeling like a chump?
Too often job seekers feel powerless as they submit online applications and wait to hear back. Informational interviewing is an effective networking strategy that lets you take control of your job search.
Informational interviewing is a job search and networking strategy that puts you back in the driver’s seat of your career. Informational interviews can help you—
- Find mentors.
- Discover career options you hadn’t considered.
- Triple your chances of landing an interview.
- Tap into the hidden job market.
The best part is that informational interviewing is a no-pressure, natural way of cultivating connections.
Here are the 10 steps to leveraging informational interviewing to deepen your network and land the job:
1. Source contacts
Use LinkedIn, company websites, alumni databases, or your personal network to identify someone in an industry or company that interests you.
2. Make the first contact
Ask the person if they have 20 minutes available for an informational interview because you’d like to ask them for career advice. Note: ask for advice; don’t ask for a job.
3. Follow up
If they don’t respond, follow up in a week and ask again. [link follow up cadence blog post] Or if you can find a phone number, don’t be afraid to cold-call. If they still don’t respond, don’t get discouraged, just reach out to someone else instead.
4. Set a date
If possible, make a plan to meet in person. Face-to-face interactions are the most memorable. If it’s not possible, try for a video interview. If that’s not possible, a phone interview works too. Since they are doing you a favor, it’s on you to work around their schedule and availability.
Practice a very brief professional introduction (1-2 minutes) that explains who you are and why you are asking for this meeting. Prepare 10 or more questions, though you probably won’t use them all. Ask questions that aren’t easily answered in an online search.
a. Questions about a career path: What do you like or dislike about xxx role? What skills or experiences would best prepare me for this role?
b. Questions about a company: What’s the hiring process? What’s the culture?
c. Questions about the person: Tell me more about xxx I saw on your LinkedIn profile. (Note: most people like to talk about themselves).
d. Ask for referrals: Is there anyone else you’d recommend I speak to about this role?
6. Be professional
Be on time and professionally dressed. Thank them sincerely. If you’re meeting in person, bring a printed copy of your resume, but don’t give it to the person unless they ask.
7. Respect their time
Keep it short. Don’t worry if you didn’t get all of your questions answered. Your goal is to be likable! You want this person to be so impressed by your professionalism and sincerity that they gladly introduce you to someone else in an interesting career path or company. If you have additional questions you really want answered, set up another meeting, or send the questions via email.
8. Follow up
Within 24 hours, send a thank you email with your polished, professional resume attached. Follow up regarding any referrals/ introductions they offered, or ask for referrals if you ran out of time during your conversation.
Repeat this cycle, impress everyone you talk to, and someone will eventually introduce you to a hiring manager (someone with hiring power) or will send your resume directly to a hiring manager. Hiring managers are at least three times more likely to give you an interview if you’ve been recommended by someone they know.
10. Be ready to interview
Occasionally, an informational interview will turn into a job interview, often for a role that isn’t even listed yet. You’ve just accessed the hidden job market: jobs that aren’t advertised online.
If you’re ready to take control of your job search, contact RedRocketResume. We’ll help you create a resume that makes you feel confident, so you can focus on networking and informational interviews, and find a job you love.