Informational Interview

Answer This Question Before An Informational Interview

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You might be surprised to learn why I really love what I do. Is it the writing? No – although I really enjoy writing and I’m quite good at it, so I’ve been told. Is it the people? No – although I love my clients; they are so interesting to learn about! Is it the freedom and flexibility of working for myself? No – although that is a very close second.

So, what is it about being a resume writer and coach that is so great? It’s the teaching. I love educating people on how to get their next job. Whaaa? Yes. Teaching job search concepts to a struggling job seeker and seeing the light bulb go off above their head is exhilarating to me. Hearing them report back with positive results is the best.

I love it so much, I would do it for free, were I independently wealthy. I do, a little bit, at my weekly Toastmasters meeting. I frequently give speeches about job search, LinkedIn, and resumes. But, on a day-to-day basis, I often have to stop myself from spending too much time giving away free advice. My kids like to have clothes on their back and food in their bellies.

Most professionals are like me. They are working crazy hours, have families, and are trying to take care of their health, all at the same time. They have to think carefully about what they say “yes” to. When someone asks for a coffee date for an informational interview, the person they are asking isn’t always inspired to give up their time.

So, how can you increase the likelihood that a contact will say yes to an informational interview when there are only so many hours in the day? Think about the question your contact is most likely asking, “What’s in it for me?”

Take these two scenarios that just happened to me, for example:

The first is by far the easiest for me to handle. I received an e-mail from someone, asking for advice about setting up a resume business. She wants to work from home. Her questions are organized and easily answerable in about five minutes of my time.

The second is definitely more time-consuming. After my last Toastmasters meeting, a couple asked me if I could go to coffee with them. They are new to the United States and the man is having trouble finding work.

Which am I more eager to say yes to? I don’t usually have time for coffee dates (not because I’m the such an important person, but because my kids keep me hopping when I’m not working), but I agree to it. Why?

Because they specifically want to treat me to Yemeni coffee. And I love coffee! I had mentioned that in the speech I had given that evening.

So, how can you make sure you answer the question of what’s in it for your connections? (They may not be as easy as I am to please.) Here are some tips:

1. Do Your Research

Find out what are the biggest challenges for the person’s job, company, or industry. Use social media to see what they are saying about their work, talk with others who know them, look at financials for their company.

2. Do Some Of Their Work For Them

Once you know what possible problems they are struggling with, ask yourself how you can contribute to the solution. Do you have insights they might need? Know of a resource you can put them in touch with? Put together a proposal that will make it worth their while.

3. Show Them Your Value Before Your Meeting

Before you even ask for a meeting, if possible. When you find information online that would be useful to your contact, forward it their way. Introduce them to contacts they would benefit from knowing. Invite them to networking events they would enjoy.

4. Leave Your Resume At Home

Remember, in an informational interview, the objective is for you to get information. Give a little and you will get a little. Ask for too much (like an opinion on your resume, or for an actual job at their company) and you will get nothing. So, leave your resume at home, and bite your tongue when you’re tempted to ask for an employment interview. Respect that things need to progress naturally first.

By asking the question “What’s in it for them?” you will get a professional fan-base that will eagerly return the favor and forward you opportunities as they arise. Or, refer you to friends who can help you. These relationships take time to build, but they are worth the wait for your career.

As for me, I will answer that e-mail, because I love teaching so much, and what’s more fun than teaching someone about what I do? But, I really can’t wait to try Yemeni coffee!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Kristin Johnson

Kristin is a TORI award-winning, 6-times certified resume writer, job search coach, and social media consultant. She's the proud owner of Profession Direction, LLC, which was recently named one of Forbes' Top 100 Career Sites of 2013.

One comment

  1. Great tips and tricks here. I think they also would work really well for networking, which I am not good at and don’t like!!!

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