Is the Informational Interview Dead?

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Sep 26th, 2010

In my practice, I am reluctant to recommend tools that I have not personally found to be successful. Of course, I will share the information with clients; but, I also let them know that I can’t offer any personal success stories.

Unfortunately, for me, the “Informational Interview” falls into that category. In fact, a better title for this article might be, “Informational Interviews – Are You Kidding?” Before you tag me as a negative naysayer, I’d like to offer some evidence, however anecdotal it may be.

In my career, I’ve sent out approximately 15 requests for informational interviews. Not one of these letters received a response. Colleagues of mine have experienced similar results with this tool. In my professional experience, I’ve only witnessed an executive grant an informational interview on one occasion. And, do you know who actually conducted the interview? Me!? And, do you know how long I’d been working for the organization before the task was delegated to me? Six weeks. To my knowledge, the man I interviewed never received an offer from the organization.

In fact, in my experience, informational interviews are so low on the totem pole, I couldn’t get one measly response to my posting on a HR Discussion Board asking if the informational interview was dead. This fact is pretty discouraging considering that discussion threads asking whether or not candidates should be disqualified for resume typos garnered hundreds of responses. Oh, well.

So, anyway…why don’t these types of interviews bode well for prospective employees? My best guess is time.

Executives are busy. They have limited time and would prefer to spend their interview time on actual candidates.

Do I think this is fair? No, I wish more executives granted quality informational interviews. When used correctly, they are great ways to spread the gospel about your industry and make authentic connections with interested candidates. Often, such interviews can be refreshing breaks for the executive in question.

Now, for the million dollar question – If your chances of receiving an informational interview are slim, how else can you get “face time” with the powers that be? Meetup.com groups, Volunteer Organizations, and Chamber of Commerce Meetings are all excellent ways to begin an informal dialogue with the executive of your choosing. Now, these venues are very successful for “making the connection” and I can stand behind that advice 100%!

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