Informational Interviews – A Key Tactic For Career Development

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

Tucker just graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Sports Management.  He is passionate about sports and his goal is to work in a college athletic department.  He recently read that a great way to learn more about a profession, and to network into the profession, is to conduct an informational interview with leaders within the industry.

Intrigued by this thought, Tucker continued to read more about informational interviews.  What he found was that an informational interview is where a job seeker schedules a meeting with an industry leader in an attempt to learn more about the the profession.  The following is the format he uncovered.

Ground Rules

An informational interview is not a job interview.  Therefore, your expectations should be genuine and your objective should be to gain insights and information into the profession, not to be offered a job.  Since you scheduled the meeting, you will want to be prepared to conduct the meeting and have a set of questions to ask. You will want to bring a copy of your resume and be prepared to share it with them if they ask. Do not provide them with a resume if they do not ask for one.  Arrive early, dress professionally, and be prepared.

Format

As you enter the meeting, you will want to follow the following format:

Introduction – Introduce yourself and graciously thank them for meeting you. Some small talk (two to three sentences) might be appropriate to break the ice.

Tell Them Why You Wanted To See Them – Be honest and let them know that you wanted to know more about the industry or the profession. Tell them that you know that they are busy and you will not take too much of their time.

Tell Them About Yourself – This is a chance to sell yourself by sharing your story (your Personal Sales Pitch).  Keep it relatively short and do not put them to sleep with your life story – just the highlights.

Ask Questions – Make sure you are prepared for your meeting and that you have a list of questions to ask.  Have a pen and paper, and take good notes.

Ask For Referrals – Find out whom else you should contact within the industry.  As he or she provides you with names, ask them if you can mention their name as the one who recommended that you contact them.

Thank Them – Being careful not to abuse their time, graciously thank them for their time, and ask if they would mind if you stayed in touch with them.

Follow-up – Send a thank you letter to them and personalize it from the notes you took at the meeting.  Continue to stay in contact with them (even a short note) every three to four months.

This process has been very helpful for Tucker.  He has visited with two athletic directors and an associate athletic director over the past month.  The insight Tucker has gained from these meetings has been invaluable, and he has just accepted an entry-level position that was a result of proper follow-up after the meetings.  Tucker has vowed to be an active networker within the profession and this will include providing his contacts with a periodic status report on himself and the progress that he has made within the profession.

Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job interview process. In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS!

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 9 books.  Check out his book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.

Gaining Clarity In Your Job Search

Using SMART Goals to provide a clear path to your next job

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

In 1981, George T. Doran, introduced to the business world the concept of S.M.A.R.T. objectives.  Since then, others have used this acronym to define the process of how to effectively and efficiently achieve goals.  This same process can be used to help provide you with clarity within the job search process.  S.M.A.R.T. goals and objectives need to be:

Specific – Goals should be precise about what you want to achieve.

Measurable – You must establish criteria for measuring your goals and objectives.

Attainable – Your goals must be challenging, yet they must also be within reach.

Relevant – Your goals need to be aligned with your personal mission or needs.

Time-Based – Your goals need to have time frames attached to them for when you will complete the goal.

Goal setting is a process for targeting the outcomes you want to achieve.  Through this process, you gain clarity on what you want to achieve, how you will achieve it, and when it will be achieved.

An example of a job search goal that’s too broad is to have the goal of getting a job in college sports.  A SMART goal would be much more specific and would follow the five steps that comprise the SMART goal process.  A SMART goal could be – “By January 20th I will create a professional looking resume and a cover letter that follows the proper format established by a career development professional.”

In this goal you have created a very specific objective – to create a resume and cover letter, using the guidance of a career development professional.  This goal would be measurable in that you either wrote the resume and cover letter, or you didn’t.  That you consulted the guidance of a career developmental professional (or read a career development book), and that you completed the project by a specific date.  The goal is attainable in that you are able to contact a career professional (or read a career development book), and you have access to a computer where you can write the resume and cover letter.  The goal is relevant in that by writing a professional resume and cover letter it will help you to get hired in college sports.  Finally your goal is time-based in that it has a specific date attached to when it needs to be accomplished.

By writing your goals and following this five-step process, you will be able to set goals and objectives that are clear, realistic, and attainable.  This process can be used for each aspect of your job search process – indentifying the type of position you are seeking, writing a resume, writing a cover letter, creating your sales pitch, writing out answers to interview questions, learning the interview process, knowing who to target in your search, who to target in your networking, how to properly follow-up, and more.  The key is to outline each goal and obtain good information that will allow you to achieve each goal using the SMART process.  This process will help provide clarity that will help you to stay focused on your career goals, and will help you to move closer to getting a job in college sports.

Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job interview process. In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS!

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 9 books.  Check out his book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.  Remember to Like Sports Careers Institute on Facebook.

Follow-up: The Key To Getting The Job

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

It’s been a week since Rick interviewed for an operations management position at a university in California and he is anxiously waiting to hear back from the hiring manager.  Rick was one of four who interviewed for the position and thought he interviewed very well.

Just then, his cell phone rang and he recognized the number – the chair of the search committee was calling.  Many thoughts rushed through Rick’s mind as he thought about the job.  This is the job he’s dreamed about, and he really wants the position.  His first thought was – he knew they were going to offer him the job.  Now, should he just accept the position or should he negotiate the salary?  Many more thoughts surfaced as he answered the phone.

“Rick, this is Mike Phansey from the search committee in California.  I wanted to call and let you know that we have hired another candidate for the operations management position.”  Stunned, Rick’s excitement quickly turned to depression and the only question Rick could muster was “What went wrong, I thought I interviewed very well”?  Mike was helpful as he shared that all four candidates were qualified and would be a good fit within the organization, but the candidate whom they hired did a great job of following up after the interview.

In the days that followed, Rick decided to conduct some research into how a person should follow up after an interview.  What he found was that most search committees are looking for someone who can solve their problems.  If a person asks the correct questions during the interview, they will know what problems and concerns face the organization.

Secondly, what concerns does each search committee member have about you as a candidate?  You will need to address each of these concerns in a personalized thank you letter.  Since you don’t know which committee member has the greatest influence on the committee, you will want to try to influence each committee member into believing you are the right candidate for the position.

The third finding is that a person will want to properly time their follow-up correspondence.  For example, if you are the first or four candidates to interview, you will want your letter of influence (thank you letter) to arrive the day before the final candidate interivews.  The strategy is that you want the committee members thinking of how great you are while they are interviewing the final person.  If your letter arrives too early, you lose impact due to the passing of time.  If your letter arrives too late, they might have already offered the job.  However, if you are the fourth of four to interview, you will need to send notes of influence very quickly.  In this situation, you might need to send an e-mail instead of a letter.  Regardless of when you interview, you will need to develop a letter of influence, addressing their concerns, and solving their problems.  And this letter needs to be timed properly.

The final finding from his research was that quite often the person who gets the job has outlasted the other candidates.  In other words, they didn’t allow their ego to convince them to withdraw from the search.  Sometimes other candidates are offered the job and they turn down the offer.  Outlast your competition and be ready for the offer when they turn to you as a candidate.

 

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 9 books.  Check out his new book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.