Getting In The Door: Networking with Informational Interviewing
In the career and resume industry, career professionals have for years encouraged their clients to go for informational interviews. I have done my share of demonstrating to clients that they have a network, how to use it to find jobs and how to take the first step.

I also do my own informational interviewing with both colleagues and clients. For the past few years, with clients, I periodically pick one to have lunch with and just get to know each other. Usually this is a client I have bonded with, worked with over a period of time and perhaps have gotten to know personally in my office setting. Some of those clients have also become part of my team of Trusted Advisors.

Recently, I have changed out the process. This is a difficult economy and I am blessed with a large network, especially in the Central Wisconsin area. Sometimes the needs of my clients are a direct match for my network, other times there is the potential for brainstorming sessions.

Brainstorming, informational interviewing, or networking sessions can help the job seekers learn of opportunities that are in the hidden job market and also evaluate the market options without getting into the application phase.

In the past, when I described “informational interviewing” I was met with blank stares. The advent of social media and the overall emphasis on networking has made this make more sense to more people but it is still something that many people don’t get.

Let’s define what informational interviewing is: An informational interview is pretty much what it says — in a job search situation, you determine who might be connected to the industry or company you want to work for and you set up a meeting. The meeting could be over coffee or lunch but in any case, if there is a cost involved, you are the one who will pay for any food or drinks involved. Your goal is to gather information. You should always have your resume with you but it is not your goal to hand off your resume in the informational interview.

• If you are informational interviewing for a specific company or corporation, you are looking for information on the products and services, corporate culture, company policies, company climate, employee retention, and of course potential opportunities.

• If you are informational interviewing for an industry, you will ask broader questions and the session will be much more a brainstorming session. In some cases, I have been part of an informational interview for clients.

• For example, recently I had a client who was seeking a management position in the hospitality industry. Both from my client base and from my connections with Wausau Whitewater, I know many people in hospitality industry. I set up a meeting with one of my connections, a hospitality sales manager and a general manager, who was a former client for my client. The four of us met at one of the local properties over breakfast.

We chatted over the hotel brunch about my client’s background, the industry, what is going on, who is moving, who has openings, and where the potential could be. There were several potential leads that were new to us. In addition, we now had two more people who knew my client and could be a future resource.

Everyone has a network but many people don’t work at developing them, nurturing them, or making them a resource. In today’s economy, understanding networks, informational interviewing, and how to tap into the hidden job market are part of getting in the door.