Want The Job? Interview The Person!
Posted April 10, 2010on:
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As a newbie starting out in this jungle of a world, I have relied on the help of those more experience jungle explorers. No, I don’t just mean reading books, though you should do that. I mean literally asking for advice and help. People want to help you, if you just ask them to.
Simple truth: people like to feel important. Tactical truth: asking for an interview makes people feel important.
One of the best ways of getting their help is to ask for an informational interview. I do not mean a job interview here. This is the type of interview where you are in the driver’s seat.
Find someone you admire, someone who perhaps has the position you want. Figure out how you can meet her. Is she a member of your local American Medical Association? Go to a meeting. (You don’t have to buy a membership. You can get a guest pass of sorts). Strike up a conversation. Give the person your 30 second commercial and chat for a bit. Then ask if you could have a cup of coffee some time and ask her about her career.
Then meet up. Be sure to do your homework first. Know everything you can about the person you’re interviewing before the interview. And research your industry, too. If all you know is what’s on wikipedia, do more research. The person you’ll be interviewing is giving up her valuable time to chat with you. Don’t make her list off the basics about herself and the field. That’s just annoying. Instead ask questions that really matter to you, like how to prepare for interviews, how to manage a career, what training to pursue, what common mistakes they’ve seen, how to meet other important people. Don’t ask for a job, though. As I said up at the top, this is not that type of interview.
At the same time, don’t be surprised if you get forwarded the names of hiring managers. Be sure to go into this interview very openly, stating that this is to help you mold and shape your career and not part of a job search, per se. The reason is that some of the people you would like to interview believe that informational interviews should just be about finding the names of hiring managers and how to get a job at their company. You don’t want to annoy these people, who can still be valuable allies, and you don’t want to put off the folk who thought you just wanted to ask about career planning.
I have learned a lot through this tactic. I’ve learned about how careers get started and run. I’ve learned that golf isn’t the only way to network–hiking anyone? SCUBA anyone? I’ve learned that flexibility is key. I’ve learned that the suit does not make the man. And I’ve learned that success is defined by a smile.
Give it a go. The worst that will happen is you’ll have had a good cup of coffee.