How are most jobs found? Studies find ~75% of the jobs available on any given day are not found through traditional search methods like resume campaigns, on campus recruiting, or answering ads or Internet posts. They’re found through connection, referral, and internal promotion. That fact may sound like bad news if, like most of us, you don’t have an ‘old boy’s network.’ But if you combine it with a simple, powerful strategy then instead of a wall it can be a gateway. The strategy is something you’ve probably heard of but stay with me here, because most don’t know what it means exactly or how to deploy it. The answer is Information interviewing.
What Information Interviewing Is- and Isn’t. First, here’s what I don’t mean: (1) giving out your business card, though that can be useful, (2) attending information sessions, though that can be useful, (3) posting your name on LinkedIn, though that can be useful, or even (4) asking your uncle to get you a job, though that can be very useful. Rather I mean having a series of 15-30 minute learning conversations where you’re really just seeking answers to particularly valuable questions from people who are well-placed or expert in the field you think you’re interested in.
Secrets of Information Interviewing. It’s not about sucking up or subterfuge- it’s about informal learning that can reveal hidden opportunities, needs, exceptions to the rule, contacts, mentors, fit, and even the culture and ‘sound’ of the field- things you can’t readily get from books, yet that are most valuable to any search. Better, the process doesn’t just reveal opportunity and point you toward it- it can help you find right livelihood by revealing where you might be happiest and how to get there. What kind of questions matter? Some examples:
- “What are the special needs of the industry right now?”
- “What firms are struggling/thriving/looking….”
- “What do you like and dislike about this work?”
- “Here’s a brief description of my background and interests. How might I best fit the field?”
- “Most get into this field with this credential. Do you know any exceptions to the rule?”
- “Who would you recommend I talk to to learn more?”
How Is Information Interviewing Related to Negotiation? Both are all about ‘tuning in’ – learning things and finding ways to harmonize needs. Skilled negotiators are skilled researchers; they’re inquisitive, humble, listen well, appreciate the need for patience, preparation, and persistence, and build rapport and relationship- qualities you practice with Information Interviewing. And as I’ll show you in Part III, when you combine Information Interviewing with more formal negotiation skills, they can help you createan excellent job that doesn’t exist yet.
How Long Does Information Interviewing Take? A while. Kim, a student who overcame a weak resume and beat many candidates for several wonderful jobs at top firms, told me she spent four months holding 70 information interviews. That’s not uncommon. Is it worth it? To be sure, I’ve listened to eight or nine recruiting experts. The consensus: Information Interviewing is worthy of most of a searcher’s time. I won’t say that- there are other ways I’ll share in later posts- but they do.
Want More Guidance on It? Check out ‘Information Interview’- a widely-read article at professorfreemanforstudents.com, or Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers — and Seize SuccessandWhat Color is Your Parachute 2020