It always surprises me how many people either have not heard of an informational interview or are not using this valuable tool while engaging in a job search. An informational interview is, according to About.com, "an interview conducted to collect information about a job, career field, industry or company." It is also a great way to build your nonprofit network.
Use informational interviews to learn more about the sector and establish a good fit between you and an organization, position, subsector, etc. Does a human service agency fit you better than a cultural institution? Do you easily get frustrated if you don't have the resources to do your job? (Which might mean a larger organization is best for you.) Are you a creative thinker who likes to find solutions that others have not considered and you like to be given the opportunity to try new things? (A small start-up might be right for you.)
There are many great resources on how to use informational interviews to further your career. I have included some links below. I am also going to share some tips that will make the process more enjoyable and fruitful.
- Begin and end with a "thank you." Although many of us in the sector are happy to participate in informational interviews, you need to remember that this is taking us away from business as usual (you know, the activities they are actually paying us to do!). Be sure to send a thank you email or letter afterward.
- Come prepared. This is a business meeting, so dress appropriately. Have resume in hand, do research on the organization, and prepare thoughtful questions.
- Be an active listener. It is a fact of life: most people like to talk about themselves. Make sure and guide the conversation with smart questions that will help you determine the fit (of this position, organization, etc.).
- Do not leave the meeting until you have asked "Is there anyone else you would recommend that I speak with as I continue researching job possibilities in the sector?" Or something close to that. This is how you begin to build a network.
Effective networking is the closest you will get to a "magic bullet" of the job search process. Although informational interviews might not yield a job offer, they will help you make informed choices down the road.