Article Contributed by Peggy McKee, http://www.career-confidential.com
One of the many, many fantastic applications of LinkedIn is that you can use it to land informational interviews. Informational interviews are just what they sound like: they are interviews that you conduct to gather information, usually about a job or a career field you’re interested in. They last 20-30 minutes, and give you an opportunity to get answers about what a typical day is like, what the person likes or dislikes about the field, and what it takes to be successful. You can also use it as a mentoring session and ask for their advice on your situation and your best career/job search moves. Research tips for informational interviews to help you compile your list of questions. Informational interviews are strictly for you to get the “inside scoop” from someone who knows, and they help you to expand your network. (FYI: If you’re lucky, you might get a job lead, but it’s bad form to go into the interview expecting this person to help you get a job.)
But how do you go about setting up an informational interview if you can’t do it through your current contacts?
Use LinkedIn. Once you create a profile, you can make connections and introduce yourself to people on LinkedIn, and then ask them directly for an informational interview. Most people are flattered to be asked, and won’t mind talking to you for 20 minutes. If they’re really pressed for time, they might offer to answer questions by email–which you should definitely follow through on. Also, you can join groups and participate in discussions, and post your questions there. This can be an especially effective tactic for entry-level job seekers. I’ve seen some really great LinkedIn discussions packed with valuable information for job seekers.
LinkedIn pages are tremendous sources of information on people you’d like to interview and companies you’re interested in. Once you’ve set up your interview, use LinkedIn to prepare for it just as thoroughly as you would for a job interview. Get all your ducks in a row so that you don’t waste that person’s time by asking questions you can look up the answers to. Coming to the interview prepared with background knowledge and intelligent questions leaves them with a great impression of you as a confident, competent go-getter they will remember (in case they run across a job opportunity for you later).
After the interview, remember to send a thank you letter. If you can, include a relevant article or a solution to a company problem–something helpful to them. Then, include them in your network by routinely contacting them every few months. A successful informational interview gains you valuable information and an expanded professional network–and who knows where that might lead?
Article courtesy of the Recruiting Blogswap, a content exchange service sponsored by CollegeRecruiter.com, a leading site for college students looking for internships and recent graduates searching for entry level jobs and other career opportunities.