The Biggest Mistake Job Seekers Make

If you are currently seeking employment and you have done the following, you may feel like you’re doing everything right: You’ve updated your resume and LinkedIn profile. You are regularly sending in applications online. You are attending networking events. You’re expanding your network through LinkedIn.

All of these are perfect, and things you need to be doing! But something is still missing, and it’s the #1 mistake that job seekers make. They don’t leverage informational interviews.

What is an informational interview? This is an interview that you set up, either in person or over the phone, with someone who currently works in the industry or the company you would like to work in. These interviews are very important, since they can help you to decide on a career path and/or, if you already know what you want to do job-wise, the next steps you need to take to get into that industry or a particular role or organization. They help you determine if the company you’re considering working at is actually a good fit for you. They also present an opportunity for you to network your way into the position you want.

Sound good? Here are three steps that will help you set up and conduct successful informational interviews.

  • Set up your interview. Find potential contacts to interview using connections to friends and family, LinkedIn connections, your alumni association, networking groups, and association meetings. Once you have a list of three contacts you would like to interview, introduce yourself via email. Let them know how you found them, what you are looking for, and your available times in the next two weeks for an interview. Action Tip: Make sure your introduction contains the field you are currently seeking to work in, and let them know you would like to conduct a 15–20 minute interview with them either in person or over the phone to learn more about said industry and how you could successfully move forward in your job search. *Be clear you are not looking for them to get you a job; you are gathering information. Once they respond with a time that would work for them, send them five questions in advance that you would like to cover. This shows you are organized, prepared, and efficient — that you are planning on taking only a few minutes of their time.
  • Conduct your interview. Remember that in this interview, you are the one asking the questions, so make sure that your questions have been well thought out. Stick to the time frame you previously agreed to, take your resume, and dress as though it were a job interview. Action Tip: At the end of the interview, ask how you could help your contact. Also ask if there is anyone else they would recommend talking with, and ask if you can keep in touch.
  • Follow up. Write a personalized, handwritten thank-you note to thank them for their time. If your contact agreed to stay in touch, you can do so by connecting with them on LinkedIn, sending them a relevant article periodically as a way to stay in touch, and updating them on your job search once a month or every few weeks.

Some people refrain from conducting informational interviews because they are shy or don’t like to admit they need help. Others don’t want to look as if they don’t know what they are doing. However, don’t let these reasons hold you back. Remember, 70–80% of jobs are found via the hidden job market, and informational interviews are critical to tapping into that market. They could be your ticket to landing your dream job!

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