Informational Interviews: 4 Mistakes to Avoid

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The other day I wrote about dream crushing. Today I’m here to tell you that I’ve been pursuing one of mine. Away from SBM, I’ve been working on my life as a Pathfinder for Professionals (Career Coach). Part of that includes offering career advice and insight to job seekers based on my experience as a recruiter and HR Professional. The following is from my career site. If you’re thinking about a new job or currently looking for one, you may like some of the articles I’ve posted over there. You’ll also find a list of my service offerings if you’re interested in resume, cover letter or LinkedIn help. I’ve worked with a couple SBM readers so far and it’s been a productive experience. Anyway, on with the show.

To: [email protected]
Date: Mon October 1, 2012 9:45AM
Subject: Informational Interview Request
From: Aaron Levington

Hi Rich,

I found your info on the company’s website and wanted to reach out because I’m very interested in working for your company. I left you a couple voicemails (past two Mondays) and figured it’d be a good idea to reach out via email as well. I’ve attached my resume for your review and would love to set up some time to chat when you have a moment. Just as background, I have 4 years of industry experience and know Mark and Amy in Accounting. Looking forward to hearing back.

Aaron

I get a lot (a lot) of messages like this. I love seeing so many job seekers proactively creating opportunities for themselves. I don’t love the volume of informational interview requests, and the fact that so many go about it the wrong way. A few years ago, job seekers weren’t aggressively pursuing informational interviews as an integral part of their career search. Today, everybody’s doing whatever’s in their power to make the magic happen. Unfortunately for HR folks and hiring managers, that means an influx of calls and emails like above.

So what exactly is an informational interview?

An informational interview is a meeting where you sit down with someone in the field you’d like to work — maybe even at a particular company. The purpose of the conversation is to learn more about how they got into the field, how best to position yourself to succeed, and what organizations may be worth looking into as you go about your search. If done correctly, this person becomes a contact that you can periodically reach out to. They won’t mind because you’ve built a relationship and proven you won’t take their time for granted. They may even connect you to other people in the field who may be able to help.

So what isn’t an informational interview?

An informational interview isn’t an opportunity to pitch yourself for a job at the company. Unfortunately, that’s what many job seekers are using them for today. How do I know? It’s all in the initial email details — the above one being a great example.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an informational interview snob. But like anybody that works in a fast-paced environment, I’m pretty busy — particularly around this time of the year. Annual performance reviews are coming up. Compensation season is upon us (HR Professionals). The business units we support are getting their budgets in order, which includes forecasting hiring needs for the next year. These activities are on top of the daily transactional and strategic items we’re tasked with handling. With that said, any HR professional that spends more time doing informational interviews than their core responsibilities isn’t a good HR professional…unless he or she was hired to do informational interviews. And because we’re busy, we need to be diligent about how we spend our time.

With our most valuable resource limited, do you think we wanna spend it speaking to someone we don’t know who’s trying to pitch him or herself for a position that doesn’t exist? Do you think we’d like to spend an hour talking to someone trying to circumvent the application process for a current opening? Most likely not. This is why the cheery email at the beginning of this post fails. The instinctive response:

I don’t have time for this!

I’m here to provide some tough love on this topic. Don’t worry. I’ll follow it up with something much more cushy, but related. Let’s get into it!

Four Reasons the Email Above Fails

1. I didn’t ask you for your resume.

How do you feel about telemarketers? Street solicitors trying to make you read pamphlets or listen to their pitch? Someone that sparks up a conversation when you clearly know they have ulterior motives? That’s what it feels like when someone sends me their resume unsolicited and asks for my time.

Why are you blindly sending me this? I don’t know you. Do you know how many of these damn things I have to read per day? I’ll come back to this later.

(I usually don’t.)

Rich’s Rule: Never send your resume in the initial communication. He or she will ask you for it once they decide whether or not they’re interested in speaking. Oh, and it’ll make you seem less pitchy.

 Click here to read the rest over at my career site
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