It’s said that nearly 80% of jobs are found through word of mouth. Which means outside of online applications, the best way to fast track your job search is to increase your chances of learning about job opportunities from your professional network.
To do this: build community by embracing the informational interview. An effective informational interview will yield valuable insights and build connection with someone who is likely to take an interest in your success, because helping others satisfies our own basic psychological needs.
Here is my foolproof approach to having a fun and productive informational interview that will fast track your job search, including 7 questions to ask to keep the conversation going.
Remember, all informational interviews are a conversation.
The word “interview” can trigger feelings of stress and anxiety, especially in the throes of a job search. Conversations, however, are routine. As you approach any informational interview, remind yourself that it is simply a conversation. Rather than focusing on what you can demonstrate, take the pressure off yourself by focusing on what you might learn.
Prepare and come armed with a clear ask.
Take advantage of this opportunity to ask questions that only someone with first-hand experience can answer. Think in advance about how this new connection could be most supportive of you in your search so that if you have an opportunity you can make a clear ask.
This is my favorite part of any informational interviewing process, and the chance to really pull back the curtain on a role, a company and an industry at large. The secret to a really successful conversation lies in being present and listening closely to your new connection. These are my top seven questions to ask to get the scoop on a company and a role. But, above all, pay attention to any surprising answers or chances to dig a little deeper. I’ll cover exactly how to do that below.
1. "Can you please tell me a bit about how you landed at your company?"
This question opens the door for the person with whom you are speaking to share their story. Everyone loves to share their story. Consider this the icebreaker of all icebreakers.
2. "What has your day been like today, and is that a typical day?"
Funnily enough, job descriptions and company websites don’t tend to reveal much about day to day operations. This is your chance to learn what it really means to work in a certain role and measure whether it will be a good fit for you.
3. "What skills/areas of expertise are critical to success in your current position?"
This question gets to the heart of what makes someone successful in their job and can help you focus the balance of your conversation, follow-up and interview process. Don’t shy away from asking clarifying questions here, this is your chance to learn more!
4. "What characteristics does your company look for in the hiring process?"
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a checklist of exactly what we need to emphasize in our cover letter, phone screener and interview process? This question will let you build your own checklist. Additionally, it will give you critical insight into corporate culture.
5. "Based on our conversation today, I’d be thrilled to explore opportunities with your company. What is the best way to stay in the know about opportunities as they become available?"
Even if there isn’t a job posting that’s live, that doesn’t mean job opportunities aren’t available. And, we don’t get what we don’t ask for. Be sure to ask this question so that you can join the 80% of people who find their next job through word of mouth.
6. "As I explore opportunities in this space, is there anyone else who you think I should speak with or any other companies that you recommend I explore?"
This closing question can pay dividends. People who work in a certain field always have friends, colleagues and connections who do similar work and it’s a simple way to continue to build community in a new professional sphere.
7. "Can you tell me more about that?"
This is the wildcard question that you can pull out at any time. As you engage in your conversation, if something piques your interest, don’t be afraid to ask more about it. It may open up a new line of inquiry or exploration for you within your own job search.
This is the beginning of a new relationship. Keep the connection warm through thoughtful outreach and updates. And, don’t forget to ask them if there are any ways in which you can support your new connection. Doing so will support the development of trust and accelerate your job search.