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.

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