Informational Interviewing Dilemma

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Informational Interviewing Dilemma

Postby Nate W. » Thu Jan 07, 2016 2:57 am

Hi Everyone,

This week has been interesting. I spoke with a well recognized recruiter in the medical device industry and a VP of HR at a Fortune 500 company. Both conversations were excellent and quite useful in terms of what approach a job seeker should take when looking for an industry position. Surprisingly, both individuals dispensed with the traditional HR nonsense about tailoring resumes and submitting your resume through the formal channels. Managers are so overwhelmed with online applications that they just don't look at them and often select candidates through their own networks as well as from candidates that write directly to them. They said the process is hopelessly time-consuming for both the manager and the candidate. The solution they agreed on was building relationships with managers at target companies by any means possible, especially through informational interviewing.

This forum has always suggested candidates should never ask or even indicate that they are looking for a job during an informational interview. If informational interviewing is the only effective way to find a job, why not give some indication of your intentions. When this approach has worked for me, the manager, often a senior level VP or Director, will talk about opportunities within their company w/o you even mentioning that you are looking. They want assertive and well qualified candidates to approach them. However, often managers might be interested in hiring but they are often confused by why they are meeting with you. I think of this approach as a way of introducing yourself and sharing information, even proposing solutions to the manager's problems, while indirectly asking for a job.

In an effort to use informational interviewing more often and effectively, I am trying to refine my approach.


Is there any way I can refine my approach by giving managers some indication of my goal while conveying that I have no expectation that they consider me for a position unless they truly want to help and see a fit?

How can I encourage a manager to talk more about hidden jobs or needs within the organization?

How can I encourage a manager to consider a job proposal (or pitch) if I have an idea about how I can help the organization solve a problem?

Why does this forum discourage a more direct approach in handling an informational interview (~managers often appreciate when you get to the point)?
Nate W.
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Re: Informational Interviewing Dilemma

Postby Rich Lemert » Thu Jan 07, 2016 9:23 am

I'll tackle your last question.

Let's say your a hiring manager, and someone has just called you out of the blue and said "I need a job - do you have any openings?" You do, but you have no idea if this person is qualified for any of them. And from past experience, you're afraid that if you say "yes" he or she is going to assume you're making an implied promise to hire them. So rather than waste a lot of time in a conversation that could get ugly very quickly, you take the safe route and refer the person to HR.

By leading with an implied demand for a job, you've put the hiring manager on a spot and made her uncomfortable. That's not a good way to impress her.

You do have a good observation about hiring managers appreciating you getting directly to the point, but the point of this call is to develop a relationship. Ideally, you want them to say "hey, it sounds like you'd be a good fit for a position I have open - could you send me your resume?"

Personally, I see nothing wrong with letting the hiring manager know you're on the market - IF you do so in a non-threatening manner. It needs to be clear that you're looking to him for help and advice, and that you aren't demanding that he hire you sight-unseen.
Rich Lemert
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Re: Informational Interviewing Dilemma

Postby D.X. » Thu Jan 07, 2016 9:54 am

Hi Nate,

Informational interviewing can lead the a Job opportunity, but the how can be complicated.

Simply put the Point of informational interviewing is inherent in the title of the activity, it is for Information. Information about what? About Areas where you have interest and where you would like to pursue a Job opportunity.

The Primary act is not about asking for a Job and that's what the Forum has supported. I don't think any one has ever stated not to mention that your are looking for opportunity, in fact that's the reason you are conducting the infromation interview - but its more about using the expert sitting in front of you to understand how to get there.

Alot of it is how you express yourself and how you direct your questions. And i hope that way of Expression is not "i want a Job".

Its ok to fully disclose you're looking for an opportnity. It's totally find to say "The reason I wanted to speak with you is that I am looking to pursue employement opporuntities in your functional area, I I would to get some insights on some of the elements I Need to consider in order to get into your field, , my back ground is ABCXYZ, ........

Be personable and perhaps you've done your homework and learned of something his or her Company is doing, you can simily ask "what does that mean for you day to day and in the short to mid term?" "what would you see your challenges and up-side" etc. etc. Some small talk is good. Based on what the Person says, you can respond with "hey that really sounds interesting knowing some of the granularities..."

Then you can directly ask if there is someone he/she can connect you with to get a more operational view or what ever.

And its totally ok after some discussion about if he or she is Aware of any emerging opportunities in the organization where you can look to explore.

He or she at that Point will totally not feel pressured in a way they fel your demanding a Job, they can choose what they will tell you.You leave them open to respond in the way they want.

Keep it soft and light. Don't worry about finding hidden Jobs, that detracts from the objective. Don't worry about trying to find an idea on how you can be a hero and solve a Problem. if anything that can be high risk and put you in negative light, remember they are the expert not you. They will know things you don't, so when you're really deep in something, any potential solution from a outsider can be viewed amateurish.

How you express yourself and carry the converstation is key - you can be direct without being demanding. The interviewee will know what you want don't worry, but they also don't like demands, about 99% of what you get from These interviews will be based on your deameanor, Poise, and how you express yourself (clear, direct in questioning, focused and most importantly, your listening and acknowlegement of what they are saying to drive discussion).

Good luck,

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Re: Informational Interviewing Dilemma

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Jan 07, 2016 11:08 am

Both Rich and DX have provided great commentary, so I will only add that since I founded this forum nearly 20 years ago, the forum has never suggested that you eliminate all references to job-seeking from networking or informational interviewing. It's only the kiss of death when you apply that too early in the conversation. Once a rapport has been built, there's no issue at all, and in fact you'd be squandering an opportunity to not mention the fact that you could use their help to scout for appropriate jobs in their organization or elsewhere. It's a great close, but it's not a great opening.

The emphasis here has always been to teach the process, and to keep the "I'm looking for a job" aspects out of the early conversations. As noted by others, that will send the conversation to an early grave.

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