Networking is an invaluable tool in accessing the hidden job market, and arranging an informational interview is one of the best methods. Also described as a ‘fact finding mission,’ an informational interview is not a job interview: it is, rather, an opportunity to meet with an expert in their field, enquire about their role and any advice they can offer. As well as expanding your networking and creating employment leads, you will learn how to be successful in your chosen field.
Here’s some tips on how to use informational interviews to get inside the hidden job market.
Find Experts in Your Field
First, find out who the experts are in your field. By both researching and tapping into your professional network, you can start to reach out to experts. In your search, emphasize that you’re not asking for a job referral, but an informational discussion. This technique works for a job seeker at any career level, not just for those at entry level.
Make Your Request
With a real letter! Letters are becoming harder to ignore than emails. In your letter, explain who you are, and if you were referred, who you referred by. Explain your interest in the field and draw upon specific contributions they’ve made. Request a brief meeting (10-15 minutes) to be scheduled at their convenience. Be sure to explain that you are seeking information and guidance, not an interview or job offer. Thank them for taking the time to read your letter, and let them know that you will follow up by telephone. Then, of course, in the next couple of working days, follow up by telephone.
Do your research
Do your research. Ensure that you know a healthy amount about the company or industry the person works in, as well as their particular role and contribution. Prepare a list of questions to use your time effectively. Questions like, ‘how did you get into this field?’ or ‘what recommendations can you make about getting a foot in the door?’ as well as industry/company specific questions are all useful.
Ask for referrals
Don’t forget that you’re trying to tap into the hidden job market, and that the best way of doing so is by networking. Towards the end of your meeting, ask whether your expert would be able to put you in touch with others who work in their field who can provide additional information. Your contact is going to have further contacts as an expert in their field, but if you don’t specifically ask for referrals, they may not necessarily provide them.
Make sure you send a message to your contact within 24 hours, thanking them for their time and for the information provided. Not only is this etiquette, it ensures that you are at the forefront of your contact’s mind, and can be an important step in cultivating a long term relationship.