Most job seekers have heard the terms “information interview” or “networking interview”. But few people really understand how to use them effectively to make a successful career change. In fact, most job seekers don’t realize that there are multiple kinds of information interviews.
While all information or networking interviews share common elements the kind of information gathered depends upon the stage of information interviewing. Outlined below are the three stages of information interviewing and the goals of each. But first, let’s look at some of the many reasons why it makes sense to conduct information interviews.
Information interviews are a chance to:
- Explore careers or clarify career goals
- Identify professional strengths & weaknesses
- Build confidence for job interviews
- Identify industry trends
- Expand your professional network
- Identify current or future employment needs
Be clear about your goals
Regardless of online opportunities to network, personal contacts are still, by far, the most effective way to find a job. A networking interview is about making a personal connection with someone who has information helpful to your job or career decision.
When asking others for advice or information it is important to be clear about why you are seeking them out for assistance. There are a variety of reasons to schedule a networking interview
- to gain clarity about next steps
- for advice or industry specific information
- to ask for referrals or information about specific job opportunities.
All of these are legitimate reasons for wanting to meet with a friend, colleague, or industry expert.
Three stages of information interviewing
Below are three distinct stages of information interviewing. Each stage has unique goals, questions to be answered, and networking outcomes. Understanding each phase is essential for the novice job seeker and career professional alike. Before activating your network decide what you hope to achieve from the contact and plan your approach accordingly.
Stage 1 – Career Exploration/Option Generation
In this stage your goal as a job seeker or potential career changer is to generate ideas and solicit information about which jobs or careers are a match for someone with your skills.
You want to answer as many of the questions below as possible:
- Given my skill set what options are available to me?
- What kinds of jobs are available for someone with my interests?
- Are there potential career paths for someone with my skill set in this industry?
- What is the employment outlook for this specific occupation?
- How mobile is this career?
- Is this a growth industry?
Stage 2 – Option Clarification
During the Option Clarification stage you are seeking to evaluate how realistic each of the most interesting options you uncovered are given your knowledge, skills, and experience. During Stage Two you are looking for additional information about how well each option fits.
You are conducting an internal evaluation to determine the following:
- Of all of the options available, which one or ones best suit me?
- At what level can I enter the field?
- What are potential barriers to entry?
- Does this job or industry fit my values?
To confirm which career options fit best, you must identify industry trends, credential requirements, and salary ranges for the positions that most interest you. You will also want to determine which companies are leaders in their field and gain referrals to respected industry professionals.
Stage 3 – Cultivating Opportunities
Stage Three information interviewing is all about pinpointing and targeting those companies and specific individuals with a current or near future need that you can satisfy. The purpose is to connect with and be referred to your target audience; those folks most in need of your expertise and therefore, most likely to hire you!
Used wisely, information interviewing can be your ticket to career success.
Get ready for your interviews, read these tips.