How to Lead the Discussion in Your Info Interview
During a job search, you want an informational interview with a social media networking contact to be a fun, relaxed experience for you and the person you’re talking to — which means you may not want to have a list of ten questions ready to fire off. Instead, you may want to shoot from the hip and just enjoy the conversation.
Although that’s a great strategy, you still need to round all the bases and get the info you set out to get. The best way to enjoy a fresh conversation with someone new and interesting (while still making sure you get what you need from the interaction) is to keep a discussion framework in your head.
If you’re searching for the next question to ask, or if you find yourself asking follow-up questions and directing the conversation, think about how to drape your questions to find out what’s working, what isn’t working, and who else you can talk to about the industry, company, and personal experience.
Here are a few questions for each category in the following list:
What’s working well? Start info interviews on a positive note. Break the ice by asking your info source how he or she chose this career or job. Why is your info source happy with the current role? Is the industry in a state of growth or decay? Perhaps you discovered something exciting in your research that you want an opinion about.
On a personal level, what parts of the job role does your info source enjoy most? Is the company growing? What does the company do particularly well? Are there job openings in certain areas that you should know about? What are skills, talents, and personal qualities that help people succeed in this work?
What isn’t working well? Here is where you can ask about the problems facing the industry and the company. On a personal level, you can ask what the person may improve about the job. If you researched the problems facing the company, now’s your chance to validate your findings.
Where were you off the mark? Did you nail it dead on? Are the issues you thought were important really important at this company?
Who else can you talk to? End every conversation with this question. You spent hours on LinkedIn finding a valuable source of information, someone who’s already agreed to talk to you. When this interview finishes, don’t go back to LinkedIn!
You have, in front of you, someone with firsthand knowledge of the organization. Perhaps this person’s colleagues can also answer some questions. Finally, make sure to ask about the hiring manager. Is the person you found on LinkedIn really the right person to talk to? If not, who is? What are the hiring manager’s initiatives right now?
In-person meetings always turn out better than phone calls. If your contact insists on a phone call, keep it short and find a way to invite your info source to coffee. In-person meetings have a tendency to go longer, which allows you to develop chemistry and form a deeper relationship.