Informational Interviews a way into the door

Lindsey Reed

While most people spend hours scanning newspaper ads and surfing the web to find that perfect job, Bowling Green sophomore Troy Jones has managed to skip that step and try a bolder one.

Jones has never found a fulfilling job in a newspaper ad, but she has found her best jobs simply by talking to people.

Informational interviews are a key way to sell yourself to potential employers. This type of interview opens the hidden job market.

Unlike other interviews, informational interviews are not for a specific job, rather students are just seeking information about a company, as well as establishing contacts from them.

“It’s not necessarily asking for a job. It’s asking advice from an insider, as a new graduate, how to break into a field,” said Philip Parker, a career counselor for Western’s Career Services Center.

One of the benefits of the informational interview, according to Communications instructor Bruce Crawley, is that you can receive good advice.

“Before leaving the interview, make sure that you seek feedback from the person about your resume and ask them what they think of you as an applicant,” Crawley said.

That type of feedback is helpful to prepare for how other employers might react, Crawley said.

Jones said she used this type of interview to get jobs with organizations such as Greenpeace. She was able to eventually get promoted to work on a tour for the organization where she helped book bands like Pink Floyd.

“If I want to do something, I find someone who is doing it and ask them,” she said.

Jones said it is important to contact people when there is not a job opening because it shows that you have interest in an employer.

She said taking the initiative to meet and share ideas with company officials eventually led to job opportunities.

“I go in the back door,” she said. “If I connect beforehand, out of my own interests, there is a meeting between the minds, and the rest is just a formality.”

Jones said a good way to get over the intimidation factor is to think of fear and excitement as being the same feeling.

“I think the most intimidating part is just deciding to do it,” she said. “After one or two times, it’s really not hard.”

Cheryl Hamilton and Cordell Parker, authors of “Communicating for Results: A Guide for Business and the Professions,” wrote that networking through informational interviews has an 86 percent success rate, while job agencies offer a 10 percent success rate. Responding to newspaper ads has a success rate of only 5 percent.

“Getting a job can be a full-time job,” Crawley said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but networking is like a pyramid.”

Crawley said studies show people that do up to 20 informational interviews a week have a job within 90 days.

But even with the high success level that informational interviews provide, some are reluctant to do them at first.

“It takes guts the first time or two,” Crawley said. “Get over the nervousness or intimidation factor and think of people you know, and then find out about the people that they know.”

By the time you talk to one person that is involved in a certain career, you can get 2 to 3 more names, Crawley said.

The informational interview allows people to get an accurate outlook on the industry’s future, especially in a struggling economy.

“The more you know, the better situation you are in to be proactive to changes in the economy and the marketplace,” Crawley said.