You Got the Informational Meeting/Interview…Now What? Some Dos and Don’ts…

March 2009

Let’s face it, this is a really tough economy and it’s very difficult to find a new job opportunity. What that means is more and more people are networking like crazy with family, friends, former co workers and the like.  One of the natural outgrowths of this is the informational or exploratory meeting.

If you are having an informational job interview as part of your job search there are steps you should take to make the process more of a two way exchange of information.  This will allow the company to learn about your expertise while allowing you to lean how the company may benefit your career. Here are some sound dos and don’ts.

“Carefully structure your questions so they both seek information and indicate you have expertise and knowledge about the person/company with whom you are having the informational interview”, says Nancy Fox, owner of Fox Coaching Associates.  She also recommends “asking questions that will elicit a response,” without trying to pitch yourself.  This interview is supposed to be for informational purposes.

Mark Bregman, CEO, of Boyle, Ogata Bregman, an executive search firm, thinks the way to proceed with the interview is to:

“Treat it as a customer visit:  What is the “benefit to the buyer” of having this conversation with you?”
“Find the pain:  What is this person’s biggest business issue right now?  How can you offer a solution?”
“Ask, don’t “tell”:  Ask questions, let them talk. Don’t sell yourself.  The more you hear from them, the more you can find the way your background might fit. Then you can close rather than sell.”

Jill Diamond, President & CEO of Lanartco Inc., a performance boutique for professionals, believes how you deliver your conversation also plays an important role in the interview process. According to Diamond, “Your vocal presence plays a very big role in creating interest from others in your conversation.”  She says, “Engage your listener with your voice.” Many times people spend more time focusing on the quantity of information they can fit into each thought and forgetting about the quality of the presentation of each point.

You also need to do your research.  Read the annual reports, visit the company’s website.  Gather as much information as you can from other sources so that you can prepare questions for the companies.   Pauline Jordan, a Principal Resource Specialist at Alexander Mann Solutions, feels you should “insist on asking your own questions.” Mann says, “In the current climate, you can’t afford to waste time with companies who won’t be transparent with your future career.”

In closing, try not to waste your time, or the company’s.  Ask direct questions to gain the information you need.  Share your personal experience without trying to sell yourself and discover how you can benefit from each other.

Robert Fligel

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