What is the purpose of Informational Interviews and why do them?

Everyone talks about the hidden job market and how many jobs are not even advertised. So how do you find these hidden jobs? Where are these jobs? Having worked in the employment industry for over 25 years, and helped thousands of people find jobs, I wanted to share what I have learned with you.

So what is an Informational Interview?

You can find a jobs before it is advertised by doing informational interviews with companies that you are interested in working for. Knowledge is power!

Basically, an Informational Interview is a conversation. These are very important in your search for a new job and help in determining if the company is a good fit for you. Informational interviews help you get an inside glimpse into organizations that you would not gain from a job interview. Simply put, it is an interview where the goal is gathering information about a profession or organization rather than securing employment (although job offers can result from the meeting!). It is a fact-finding discussion where you talk with people already working in a particular role, field, industry, or work place about:

• the tasks that they perform and the knowledge and skills that they use

• the path that they took and the experience and qualifications required to obtain their job

• the kinds of people that they serve, lead, and/or with whom they collaborate on the job

• the sort of work environment and culture in which they work

• the joys and frustrations of doing their work, in their industry and for their organization

Your aim is to get an overview of both their typical workday as well as the variety of work situations, interactions and opportunities they have encountered across the course of their career.

You can gain information aboutthe important characteristics that the different companies look for when hiring. This will help you in creating cover letters, and resume that emphasize the key attributes that you have to offer. They are also a great way to practice your interview skills prior to a job interview.

How Informational Interviews have helped my clients find jobs

Many companies have a referral system and ask their staff if they know of anyone who they believe can be a good fit for the organization.Some even give a bonus to staff who refer individuals who are hired. However, it is important to remember that it is not a guarantee that an Informational Interview will result in the person referring you for an opening within a company.

One of my clients, who had and MBA and very little work experience as a Business Analyst, went for an Informational Interview with someone who was working at a large organization that she was very interested in working for. The two had worked together at a previous firm, and when they met for an Informational Interview the employee took her resume into the Hiring Manager and promoted her for an available position. The result was an interview, as she was recognized in the pile of 300 applicants, and ended up getting the job! This does not happen every time, but I have seen it happen enough times to know it works for many.

In another case, I had a client in the biotechnology field who was laid off in early November. Through doing a series of Informational Interviews, he landed a job in early January! He set-up an Informational Interview with someone who he had worked with ten years ago, who had recently secured funding for a new research project and was at the early stages of recruiting. Initially, the company had thought they were going to hire a junior person, but upon meeting my client who had twenty years of experience, they decided to redo the job description and hired him.  The Informational Interview enabled them to realize that his skills could move the research must faster and were critical to helping them grow.

Review your network to see if you know anyone who works at an organization that you would like to work for.  If not, use LinkedIn to find shared connections and ask your contacts for an introduction.

Companies Forecast Future Staffing Needs

Organizations will forecast their staffing needs and often have projects that are waiting for approval.  Usually, they will start to collect resumes and potential staff prior to these projects starting. During an Informational Interview, you can find out about their future needs and gain an understanding of what skills they require. This allows you to determine if you have a skills gap, and enable you to use the time prior to the forecasted position to gain the essential skills.

Consider Informational Interviews when searching for jobs or for identifying the best courses to take that will fit your interests and needs.

My next blog will provide tips on how to do an informational interview and what questions to ask.


LinkedIn not just for job search

Many people assume LinkedIn is just for people who are looking for a new job and often miss opportunities and learning. Understanding your purpose for being on LinkedIn and then creating a profile that fits is key to successfully using LinkedIn in a way that benefits you the most. LinkedIn is not Facebook it is an online business-networking source. Here are what you need to think about when creating your LinkedIn or changing the current profile to maximize results.

  • For Entrepreneurs: with a strong profile and actively participating in groups and posting interesting relevant articles you will raise an awareness of your company and will bring business to your firm.
  • For Companies bidding on contracts: sometimes when companies bid on contracts the company look at the LinkedIn profile of key members to see if they have strong skills and to determine the stability of the firm. I have seen this with engineering firms and social service firms.
  • LinkedIn as a learning tool: LinkedIn is a great source of up to date information in your industry and can connect you with people around the world to share knowledge and see what is going on in other parts for the world. LinkedIn has further strengthened the educational source with the purchase of Lynda.com and online learning source.
  • Stealth Jobseeker: you may currently be happy at your job but thinking you might be ready for a new challenge. With the right profile, you can create an interest that draws in recruiters but does not tip off your current employer that you are looking.
  • Source of Contacts for family members or friends: who may be looking for work. The challenge for young people looking for work is the lack of contacts and networks. If you have a big network you might be able to connect them with someone who could provide them with information about the industry they are interested in working in.
  • Job seekers: LinkedIn is definitely a great source of information for job seekers. You can gain market intelligence; find jobs not easily found in other places, connect with old colleagues who may be working in an organization that you could potentially apply. By looking at other peoples LinkedIn profiles you can see what your competition is in your industry and will help you understand where you fit into today’s labour market.


About Dorothy Keenan of FutureWorks

Dorothy is a professional resume writer and career advisor with over 25 years’ experience in helping people find fulfilling work at all levels of the labour market. If you think your LinkedIn profile needs a tune up or you are unsure how to even start contact Dorothy at dorothyk@fwt.bc.ca or go to www.fwt.bc.ca. Changing your profile can lead to some great opportunities for growth or career change.


LinkedIn a Rolodex on steroids

Having worked in the employment industry for over twenty-five years, I have seen and used every trick there is in looking for work. When I first started helping people look for work –you went door to door and dropped off resumes. Despite being right in the office you will be asked to send your resume by email or apply online and they will refuse to take the resumes!

Then we had it where you contacted the receptionist and tried to break through to the hiring person and there job was to block everyone and protect the hiring person privacy at all costs.

Next we had the voice mail and email vacuum –you left a message and no one ever returns your call and the email you sent with the resume, and cover letter is never acknowledged and you did not know if your resume every made it into the hands of the person hiring.

Today we have the Applicant Tracking System or (ATS) with over 200 different systems and more and more companies either buying them or using third party systems. The applicant tracking system is one more roadblock for the job searcher. The ATS systems are used to screen applicants resumes for key skills and then hiring manager views those resumes that make it through the system.

So how do you break through all these roadblocks?

LinkedIn is the jobseekers dreams come true! If used correctly you can find out who the hiring person is, what their background is, what type of people they currently have on board and can determine where you skills could help them and if your skills are weak where else you could potentially be hired based on where the current staff previously worked. LinkedIn is a massive rolodex that enables your to connect with people in the organizations and gain a further understanding of what the firm requires.

  1. The reality is networking is key. People hire people who they know or someone else knows. The majority of people are referred for jobs. If you are new to the city and don’t have a lot of connections -LinkedIn can help you identify people who work at the place you are interested in. I have had clients who have been successful in connecting with the person in the hiring role through LinkedIn and some have been able to connect with manager in departments that they wanted to work and set up an informational interview .
  1. In order for LinkedIn to be useful, you ideally need at least 100 people in your network. As soon as I say this, I can immediately hear a number of you saying –I do not know one hundred people-think again. For the young people it may be the parents of your friends, your professors, your neighbours, your teachers, your classmates or your soccer coach I think you get the idea. For those who have been in the workforce for a number of years it is a great way to reconnect with people you use to work with. I had one client who connected with an employee they had not connected with in ten years. He connected on LinkedIn with the person who had just started a new company and they had been discussing hiring someone with my client’s exact skills. He was in the biotech industry (which has been a challenging field in BC lately) and from when one job ended and he was hired, it was six weeks! this was in late November and he was working by mid January. They hired him and the position was never posted.
  1. On LinkedIn you can search for people who went to the university you went to and I have found that often people will connect with people that went to the same university as you.
  1. Join groups on LinkedIn and find out if they have events that you can attend. You will meet others in the industry as often people are aware of positions that are available either within their own company or at another company. Sometimes at these events you can find out about new positions companies are proposing before they have even posted them and you can get a jump on the job.

LinkedIn is only one piece of the job search puzzle, having a professional resume, a network and the confidence to reach out and let people know you are working you will be surprised the response and where help in your job search comes from.

About Dorothy Keenan of FutureWorks

Dorothy is a professional resume writer and career advisor with over 25 years’ experience in helping people find fulfilling work at all levels of the labour market. If you think your LinkedIn profile needs a tune up or you are unsure how to even start contact Dorothy at dorothyk@fwt.bc.ca or go to www.fwt.bc.ca. Changing your profile can lead to some great opportunities for growth or career change.


So you are on linkedIn. Now what?


So you finally bit the bullet and got yourself on LinkedIn. You have created a great profile. You have heard how many people have found great jobs, companies have found business partners, learned new ways of doing business and you are on and NOTHING HAPPENS! So why is that? You need to be active on LinkedIn for it to be of value. If you put up your LinkedIn profile and never go on again it won’t be very useful. Here are some quick tips that I have used and so have my clients and been very happy with the results.

What to do to generate results and understand the value of LinkedIn.
  • Increase your connections to over 100 but make sure you actually know the person. this increases your exposure to a wider range of people.
  • Remove connections of people that you do not wish to be connected to –ie that old boss that you really didn’t like and never want to talk to again. Removing connections is simple and they do not know you have done it!
  • Connect with people both in your industry and in others industries as you never know who they know. Sometimes the brother of your friend is working in a company that you are interested in learning more and you were not aware of that until you connected with your friend on LinkedIn.
  • Join groups that are in the field you are interested in learning more about. Once you have joined make sure to respond or comment on postings. Make short comments that show you understand or add value to the discussion. It is not a matter of just “liking”. By doing this, you are starting to create a presence to your network on LinkedIn and could capture the eye of a recruiter. You can also learn some of the latest trends in your industry.
  • Have recommendations on your LinkedIn that highlight your skills. When getting recommendations make sure that you spread them out so they do not all happen on the same day. The reason for this is each time you add a recommendation it will go out to your connections if you have the alert button turned on. If looking for work and do not want your employer to know then keep your alerts turned off or make sure you don’t have a flood of recommendations coming in on the same day.
  • If a recruiter contacts you and your are not looking for work at the moment –do respond back and let them know if you are not looking but keep the name for the future as you never know when you will be looking.
  • Check out jobs on LinkedIn and when you look at the job look also at the other ones recommended. This will generate more jobs coming to your LinkedIn site.
  • Use LinkedIn for research on companies to understand the skills they need by reviewing the staff who currently work there. You can analyze your skills and see if you could improve our chances of working at your ideal firm by taking a course or some additional training.

About Dorothy Keenan of FutureWorks

Dorothy is a professional resume writer and career advisor with over 25 years’ experience in helping people find fulfilling work at all levels of the labour market. If you think your LinkedIn profile needs a tune up or you are unsure how to even start contact Dorothy at dorothyk@fwt.bc.ca or go to www.fwt.bc.ca.  Changing your profile can lead to some great opportunities for growth or career change.