Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Bogus Information Interview

Writing is tough, I have to tell you! Sometimes weeks pass and nothing useful flits from one neuron to another within my thickly bone-encased noggin. Then I encounter an article like 'The Bogus "Informational Interview"' and my heart swells. Today at last I have something to which I can respond. (Mind you, whether it's something worth reading or not, you must be the judge.)

The article makes the following claims about informational interviews for newcomers to the job market:
  1. they are encouraged as a means of exposing oneself to potential employers;
  2. hiring managers will not grant them because they lack the time,
  3. the job seeker's time would be better spent speaking to those who might actually hire her.
First of all, career developers discourage job seekers from using information interviews as a way of pimping themselves to employers. In fact, we know that doing this is a well-proven way of provoking well-deserved annoyance on the part of the employer. No, use informational interviews in your cycle of adjusting and re-adjusting the course of your career over time, not just when you desperately want a new job. Use them to obtain the information that you need now. That's why they're called informational!

Should you present yourself to a hiring manager in any way that discloses that you're actually praying for a job offer rather than information and that exchange will come to a quick conclusion. However, make it transparent that you really want information, that you will consume only the agreed interval of time for the interview, and that you do not want a job from the person you are asking to meet at this time then your odds of success will improve. I won't go into details about how you might do this now. Prod me forcefully in a month or two if I forget.

Which reminds me, why limit your research efforts to 'hiring managers' anyway? Informational interviews are about the entire topic of your career. If you think you might want to be a nurse then ask a nurse what it's like to be a nurse. If you want to know what it's like to be a hiring manager then ask one of them.

When you reach the point where you know you want a specific kind of job in a specific industry in a specific geographic location, when you know what employers expect of people who are seeking jobs like that, and what such jobs pay, and where such a job might lead as part of your own career, and so on—are your there yet?—skip the rest of your career research project for the time being. In other words, if you know everything needed to be able to find and respond well to the appropriate job advertisements, to job offers, and so on then of course there is no need for you to gather information. You have what you need.

When you do need information again—and unless you hate conversation—then the informational interview is one source of information that you can consider. Be prepared for the wonderful possibility that a conversation with someone in a field that you are considering will yield ideas and perspectives that you might never find anywhere else.


Johnny Eleven said...

Good post. Requests for infrmational interviews do allow employers to screen out people who can't recognize bad information, though.

Bill Bell said...

Thanks, Johnny. Employers have so many ways of screening people out that it's a wonder that anyone makes it through.