Whenever I would attempt to play sports as a child, disaster would seem to follow close behind. Balls would crash into bedroom windows and windshields at will; no glass in a five-mile radius was safe. It got so bad that, after each toss, I would have to immediately announce, “That was just a practice round!” in order to buy myself another chance.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to call a “practice round” when interviewing for a job? The high stress environment can place tremendous pressure on a candidate. As the questions start flying, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and crash right into disappointment.
Luckily, there is a great, low-pressure way to have a trial run of an interview while learning about a company and/or position. Say, “hello” to the informational interview!
What is it?
An informational interview is just that – an interview designed to give you the opportunity to learn information you might not have a chance to otherwise. This can be information about a particular position, company or industry. Many times, these interviews are scheduled through a contact you already know within your professional network. However, they can be arranged through cold calls and e-mail outreach.
Why Informational Interviews?
Unlike a traditional interview, the goal is not to impress your interviewer in the hopes of securing a new position. Rather, this is an opportunity to ask the right questions, listen more and learn information first-hand. In the more relaxed atmosphere, candidates get the opportunity to take a sneak peek into the corporate culture and day-to-day life of real employees.
Things to Keep In Mind
Just like any other interview, it is important to dress and act professionally throughout the process. Similarly, take the time to thoroughly research the company and come prepared with targeted questions. This is a great opportunity to make a first impression to an organization, so be sure to take notes and remember names. It is never a bad idea to follow up after the interview with thank you notes and e-mails.
In the end, an informational interview may lead to a position down the road, it may not; what’s more important are the exclusive details that can be gathered during these types of sessions. A candidate may have the education and passion for a particular field, but the unwritten elements of a position – from culture to team dynamics – are best learned through hands-on experience.
Before your next interview, consider calling a “practice round” for yourself; it might just be the difference between a crash landing and a career SWOOSH.
Do you have any informational interview experience? Share your story below!