A. GETTING READY TO MEET A STRANGER|
B. HOW TO MAKE THE NOTES
D. HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN A COLLEGIAL CONVERSATION
E. THE FOLLOW-UP THANK-YOU LETTER
F. CONTACTING THE REFERRALS YOU GET FROM INTERVIEWS
G. FAQs ABOUT INFORMATION INTERVIEWS
Information interviews are excellent for gathering intelligence about an industry, individual companies, or an occupation you are considering. They are also powerful builders of your contact network because the interviews are with decision makers. The principle advantage of information interviews is the reduced stress for both yourself and your contact. You are not asking for a job, rather your contact is advising you about the needs of the company/industry and your specific qualifications.
For setting up interviews, review section E. Research and Direct Approach Using Contacts under Part 7 Job Search Strategies.
The very idea of research suggests going into unknown areas, meeting unknown people, and asking them questions. Even if you had a personal introduction to your contact, you would be strangers to each other. Few people enjoy meeting strangers and fewer yet are comfortable asking questions.
An obvious solution is to practice asking questions that start conversations. After introducing yourself to a stranger, concentrate on his/her feelings of stress rather than your own. Made your objective to put the other party at ease by asking a friendly question:
You: Hi, my name is ____. I'm here because I am an old college friend of (our host/hostess). We've been out of touch for years and just bumped into each other a few weeks ago. How about you?
By establishing a mutual interest, this social exercise reduces the stress of getting your dialogue started. Now the conversation has a specific track on which to run. The same mutual interest will come to your aid with information interviews.
Remember the purpose of these interviews:
Say to yourself, "What I'm after is a job. But during the research phase of the process, what I'm after is information." Stay with this intention, even if your contact asks if you are after a job.
You: As I explained in my letter; the aftermarket industry may have a particular need for the kind of timely, accurate data flow I can achieve. But before I start a job-search or even write a resume, I wanted to talk to people like you who really know the industry from the inside.
Now suppose your contact, Ms. Good-Kind, has an open mind. Your contact letter interested her. There you are, seated comfortably. You refuse the offer of a cup of coffee ("No thank you, perhaps later") because you'll need both hands free. And you initiate the conversation by reaching into your WORD BANK of accomplishments:
You: Thank you for taking the time to see me, Ms. Good-Kind. As I explained in my letter; I believe the aftermarket industry may have a particular need for the kind of timely, accurate data flow I can achieve-like the branch-reporting program I designed that helped to improve productivity by twenty five percent. But before I start a job-search or even write a resume, want to talk to people like you who really know the industry from the inside. Out of regard for your time, may I ask just one question, make some notes, and be on my way?
Ms. G: I've been wondering about that.
You: By what criteria are data people like us hired in the aftermarket industry?
Ms. G: That's a good question. Let me think about that for a moment.
What makes it a good question is that Ms. G. knows the answer.
As a fellow data person-hence the use of the term "us"-
she knows the criteria by which she was hired, and by which her
work is evaluated. And she knows the aftermarket industry from
TO MAKE THE NOTES
Look at the situation from the Contact's point of view. Ms. Good-Kind is giving of her time and energy to give you what you said you wanted. How detailed should the information be? If you're just sitting there and making great eye contact, what's the point of loading you with a lot of data you probably won't remember? Why not give you a few brief answers and see you out the door? That's why have to take good notes.
Think about what kind of note-taking materials would make the best impression on the interviewer. Experience has shown that professional fact-finders use a yellow, legal-size pad and a black, felt-tipped pen. They command instant recognition.
You: Do you mind if I take some notes?
Ms. G.:No, not at all.
The information should be expanded or explained where necessary. It can be used to create a thank-you letter and an Inside-Track Resume.
Drawing a line down the center of the page and using the left-hand side only, BLOCK PRINT the criteria as you hear them. Block print in big letters-letters big enough to connect the upper and lower line is the smallest size. Bigger would be even better. And leave plenty of space (about six lines) between each criterion to make additional notes which, while they don't have to be block printed, should be clear enough for you to read afterward.
Ms. G. will want to know that she is being noted-and quoted-correctly. The felt-tipped pen is not only a slick mover, but black is a highly visible color. Very few people block print at any great speed. This means you'll really have to concentrate on what you're doing instead of interrupting with comments of your own. You'll be focusing all your attention on what you're being told rather than on what you want to say.
To a good listener, precisely what is being said, the order in which it is said, and the implication of what is being said are all important. Block printing the major criteria in headline form forces you to become a good listener. Instead of a scribbled interpretation of what you're hearing (which you will be unable to read later, anyway), you re concentrating on each criterion. With some criteria, you may just get the headline. Block print it. With others, a story may go with it. Make supportive notes. With some, your Contact may invite discussion by asking you a question or two. Once again, a quick note summary is all you'll have time for.
A typical information interview might result in pages of material, but here is a simplified example:
An important question to ask your contacts is the salary/wage
range for the position you are looking for. This is valuable intelligence
when you finally arrive at the point of negotiating a salary or
deciding to accept a job offer.
1) Why did your contact agree to see you?
2) Why did your Contact have all the criteria at her finger-tips?
3) What happens next?
Question 1:c correct.
She was interested to talk to you because of the quality of your CONTACT LETTER.
Question 2: All three are correct.
Question 3: Once again, all three are correct.
TO PARTICIPATE IN A COLLEGIAL CONVERSATION
Anyone can start it. The most natural development is for you to review the list of criteria, just in case your Contact has anything to add.
While many of your skills have already been listed-a fact which means you chose well when you targeted the industry-but you probably have a few more you'd like to test.
You: How about the ability to set and achieve objectives? Would that be a criterion?
Ms. G.: I hadn't thought of that, but sure-that's important.
You: Then Let me add it to the list. THE ABILITY TO SET AND ACHIEVE OBJECTIVES. How about the ability to prepare manuals and to teach and train people?
Ms. G.: Our organization has a training department that prepares materials for our dealers, but not everybody does. I know that Acme Parts doesn't. So it could be important.
You: Good. Then let's add that. THE ABILITY TO PREPARE MANUALS-TO TEACH AND TRAIN.
How much time do you think has gone by? A couple of minutes for the introduction, finding seats, and refusing a cup of coffee. Perhaps a minute or two to name and note each criterion-even with a few explanatory details added that we didn't include in the script. So in under a quarter of an hour of collegial conversation you've not only made a list of six important criteria, but also added two or three of your own. This leaves you plenty of time to add more criteria to the list by drawing on more of your skills or clarifying any of the criteria you may not fully understand. Finally, your pad looks like this:
If you feel you've learned all you've come to learn or that you're in danger of wearing out your welcome-whichever comes first-it's time to live up to your promise. You asked the question about the criteria by which people in your field are hired in your target industry. You made some notes. It's time to be on your way. But in parting, how about other people you might talk to?
You: You've been a great help Mrs. Good-Kind. As you can see, I'm trying to decide how well my skills will fit the needs of the aftermarket industry and at what level. Is there anyone else you would suggest that I talk to? You mentioned Acme Parts, for example.
Ms G.: That would be George Atkins, MIS Manager: I worked for him for a few years.
You: Thanks. I'll drop him a note. Is It all right if mention we spoke?
Ms. G.: Sure. Give him my regards.
You: I'll do that. Is there anyone else you could suggest?
FOLLOW-UP THANK-YOU LETTER
Your expression of appreciation is critical to your continued relationship with your contact. Write it promptly and fax it if you can.
Ms. Claire Good-Kind|
Director, MIS Department
123 Universe Ave.
Any City, U.S.A.
April 15, 1997
Dear Ms. Good-Kind:
Thank you for your kindness and courtesy during our meeting last Thursday. I'm grateful for the information you gave me concerning the criteria by which people in data management are hired in the aftermarket industry, as well as the recommendation to contact George Atkins at Acme Parts.
I found our discussion of high-speed voice and data communication particularly helpful, since it gave me the opportunity to learn about the work being done at Aftermarket Inc. Most of all, I was very encouraged by the description of how you utilized your operating system and data packages. As we discussed, DEC VAXIULTRIX, db-VISTA and db-QUERY are an important part of my experience as well.
The work you are doing at Aftermarket Inc. sounds very productive, and while there may be no openings at the present time, I hope you will keep me in mind should an opportunity occur. Until then, as you can see by the enclosed resume, I plan to make use of your list of criteria in order to prepare myself. I'd appreciate any constructive comments.
As you suggested, I'll get in touch with George Atkins. I'll contact you, if I may, to report what happens. Thanks again.
The enclosure of your resume proves to Ms. G. that you were looking for the kind of information that would prepare you to look for a job in the industry. It also proves you were listening and that her help made a difference.
That's why you asked for permission to keep in touch. If Ms. Good-Kind
has any constructive comments, you'll hear them. If she thinks
of other Decision-Makers who might be interested, you'll hear
about them as well. And if your potential contribution to her
own department offers a higher level of productivity than she
is now getting, she might be interested herself.
THE REFERRALS YOU GET FROM INTERVIEWS
Chances are when you contact George Atkins, he'll have some nice things to say about Claire Good-kind. She's a nice person. Your report should include those comments. Nice people deserve to hear nice things about themselves.
Aside from the first sentence, your letter is the same you used for Ms. Good-Kind:
|Mr. George Atkins
Acme Parts, Inc.
1234 5th Street
Midtown, USA 123435
April 15, 1997
Dear Mr. Atkins:
Claire Good-Kind and I were discussing the criteria by which data people are hired in the aftermarket industry; and she suggested I contact you. My reason for doing so is that after eleven years in data management, I'm looking for a new start in a dynamic business environment. Ideally, this would be with an organization that could make best use of the kind of results I've achieved in gathering and analyzing data.
Q: What kind of contact communication do you start if you want to target your own industry? After all, you can't very well say you want to talk to people who know the business from the inside if you were one of them?
A: Suppose, like our case study, you were in the mortgage department of a bank. You'd like to explore the possibilities in international leasing because you feel that's a growth area in banking. You might write:
As you may have heard, the down-sizing at Amalgamated Bank and Trust requires that I make a new start. Ideally, this would be with some area of banking that could make best use of the kind of results I've achieved in data management.
(Then, after a paragraph that borrows from your achievement statements, your letter would continue.)
Right now I'm in the process of exploring several career alternatives. My initial research has shown that international leasing has a particular need for the kind of timely, accurate data flow that I can achieve. But before I make any decisions, I'm trying to benefit from the counsel of people like you who really know international leasing from the inside.
(The essential idea is to widen your chances by widening your horizons.)
Q: What if I can't find any articles or quotations that would give me a good lead-in for my contact letter? Suppose all I have is the name of the person in charge of that department?
A: In that case you send essentially the same contact letter-but without the advantage that a bit of research might help you to achieve.
Q: What if I don't get a response?
A: You don't get a response. There is nothing here that suggests you wait for one, either. You call. Then your next step depends on the response you get. (See page 36.)
Q: If the same Contact gets a lot of letters that all sound the same, won tit be a clear sign that we're all programmed?
A: There are two answers to that question. The first is that the Contact already gets more than his/her share of exactly the same letter from people who are programmed to say: "Enclosed please find my resume" and end with "I would appreciate hearing from you." If the company is big enough to have a personnel department, that's where it's routed. If the company is small and all they have is a wastebasket, that's where it goes.
The second answer is more to the point. Eventually, as job-getting becomes more and more competitive, that flood of letters and resumes is bound to increase. This presents you with a choice. Your communication can read like the past or it can read like the present. Either way, you're going to have competition. But the more work you put into your SELF-PRESENTATION, the more interesting you become. The more interesting you become, the less competition you have.
Q: Your example shows a really unique situation with a very cooperative Contact. What happens when the Contact isn't that helpful?
A: While all Contacts are not equally helpful-or equally knowledgeable-the very fact that they agree to see you is a big step in the right direction. The big challenge is always the same and that is to get the meeting in the first place. Once you're there, the rest is conversation. How productive it is depends on you.
Q: What if a criterion is mentioned that you can't meet?
A: Everything depends on how important that criterion is in terms of the total job description. In the example, the second criterion was the ability to program in C. If you were the job seeker and could meet this criterion, no problem. Out what if as a data person, you could program, but not in C?
You: I notice that the second criterion is KNOW HOW TO PROGRAM IN C. Tell me more about that.
Ms. G.: Its' another industry standard. Let me give you some of the background. -. etc.
Once again, it's decision time. As a data person you could learn it. But when? And where? And how long will it take you? If a criterion you cannot meet keeps coming up in your interviews, you've got to learn it or shift your career sights to another target.
Q: What if my Contact is at some distance-let's say in anotherstate or even across the country?
A: Any conversation that can be conducted face-to-face can he conducted over the phone as well. The same question and note-taking procedure can be followed as long as your Contact has set aside enough time to provide the information you're looking for.
As a rule, a face-to-face contact makes a much better friend than a disembodied voice. However; there are a number of positive aspects to a telephone interview:
Could we talk long enough for me to ask just one question and make some notes? If it's OK, I'll call you first thing on Thursday to set a time for our phone conversation. It that's not convenient, will you leave word with your secretary about the best time to call?
Thanks, Mr. (Ms) __________. I appreciate it.
Email: service at sunraye.com.