The vast majority of positions are not filled through traditional external hiring processes, but rather through someone known to the employer/company prior to the position being advertised. For this reason networking is an essential component of job search. Networking is most likely part of your normal everyday life - and is essentially the action of meeting people, asking questions and sharing information. Make sure you develop and maintain relationships with your personal and professional contact,s including: friends, previous colleagues, classmates, sports teammates, running partners, the person sitting beside you on the bus, or the parents of your childrens' friends! Let everyone know what about your work goals and intersts, and see what happens.
The purpose of an information meeting is to gather information about a career direction, position, industry or employer of interest. In addition to gathering valuable information, information interviews are one of the most effective methods of developing contacts and creating a professional network.
Tips for a Successful Information Meeting
- Remember that the purpose of the meeting is to gather information, not to apply for a job - if you are interested in a position with the employer, approach it at another time
- Ask for a short amount of time, usually 15-30 minutes, and respect that amount of time
- Ask for a short 'meeting' rather than using the term information 'interivew' - the work interview can turn off some employers
- Research the company and the position of the person you will interview
- Ensure you are familiar with industry jargon and vocabulary
- Prepare questions ahead of time (See "Sample Questions" attachment below)
- Dress to impress - treat the meeting as if it was a job interview
- Arrive 5- 10 minutes early
- Be respectful, professional and enthusiastic
- Be mindful of your body language - confident posture, good eye contact, limited fidgeting
- Be aware of your tone - cultural norms, pitch, enthusiastic but professional, confident but humble, "up-beat"
- Use appropriate vocabulary - formal and industry specific
- If you want to take notes it is considerate to ask the employer first
- Focus on what the person is saying, not on your next question. Be flexible with your questions, and follow the conversation/employer.
- Bring your resume but do not offer it unless the employer requests it - then happily receive feedback!
- At the end of the meeting, always ask who else you could speak with and if it is ok to keep in touch
- Reflect on what went well, what was tricky and what you could improve for next time
- Send a thank you note within 24 to 48 hours
- Don't stop after 2 or 3 information interviews - your network can never be too big!
Resources and Tools
- Sample questions - make a good first impression (pdf)
- Difference between an Information Interview and Job Interview (pdf)
- How to request a meeting (information interview) (pdf)
- How to write a memorable thank you note (pdf)
- Networking Cyberguide (York University)
- Three Mistakes to Avoid When Networking (HBR)