(Ball State Access Only)
A great way to learn whether a particular career might be a good fit for you is to talk to someone in that field via an informational interview or a job shadow. But it can be intimidating to approach people and ask them for this kind of help. We’ll discuss how to research and set up these opportunities, and how to evaluate them afterwards as part of your job search process.
We’ve been preparing for this session since way back on March 2. We broke the process down into bite-sized attainable tasks.
Why? To Increase Your Odds
- 80% of jobs are found through networking.
- 42% of jobs are filled without any trace of a job ad.
- Your odds of landing a job by sending in a resume via an online portal are 1 in 152.
- Your odds of landing a job through a referral are 1 in 16.
The informational interview moves you from the 1/152 group to the 1/16 group. Boom.
Why does this interview move me from one group to another? you ask. All I’ve done is decide what I’m looking for, done some research, figured out who to talk to, and interviewed somebody. Big deal.
But it is a big deal! You’ve spoken to someone in a position to help you, who can refer you when a spot becomes available.
This is why 1 in 5 informational interviews lead to a job or internship opportunity.
Preparing for an Informational Interview
We’ve been doing this all along!
Informational Interview or Job Shadow (this post right here!)
Informational Interview as a Rhetorical Situation
You are accustomed to being the audience in most rhetorical situations.
Now you are moving toward being the author of the text. What is the text?
Every aspect of the informational interview interaction is a text.
The Identity Shift from Student
You’re used to people meeting you where you are. Now, you must meet other people where they are.
Yes, it’s “just an information gathering session.” Yes, it’s not the “real thing.” Yes, it’s more casual than a real job interview.
But please don’t forget that this process is about leaving the interviewee with a positive impression of you.
Don’t say, “I have to do this for a class.”
- Reach out via email if possible.
My name is ________ and I am currently a ______ at Ball State University majoring in _______. I would like to learn more about a career as a _________, and would appreciate the opportunity to spend 20-30 minutes with you for an informational interview to help guide my curricular and career decisions. I am generally available during the following times:
- Monday, 12pm-3pm
- Tuesday, 9am-12pm
- Thursday, 2pm-5pm
Please let me know if any of those times work with your schedule. I thank you for your consideration, and any guidance you may provide would be most appreciated.
- Be on time.
- Work around their schedule.
- If f2f, have a copy of your resume on hand. If on Zoom, send them your resumé beforehand and/or link to your resume in the chat.
- Ask if you can record the interview so that you don’t have to focus on taking notes while they’re talking and can maintain eye contact instead.
- Stay within the time allotted. If time’s up but you have more questions, ask if they’re willing to continue.
- Listen actively. Nod. Smile. Even though the interview might be happening via a screen, you can’t be passive.
- Thank them afterwards via USPS, email, or giving them a shout out on social media, like this or this.
Spend some time thinking about the impression you’re likely to make to this stranger on Zoom.
Wi-Fi signal? If you can’t rely on a strong Wi-Fi signal, then don’t use Zoom. Talk in person or on the phone.
Background? What’s in the background behind you? Your unmade bed? Maybe not a good idea. Use the Zoom background features to blur the background or use one of their background templates or perhaps one of your own. My best advice: keep it a bit bland.
Your face? Make sure the interviewee can see your bright and smiling face. Use a lamp or sit facing a window so you’re not in shadows.
Your clothes? You do not have to wear a suit or anything fancy for a Zoom interview, but you should shift a bit from casual to professional from the waist up. For a f2f interview, same thing but with the whole outfit. Wear what affirms who you are. Check out Cardinal Closet at Ball State. And check out the Ball State Career Center guidelines on p. 18 of the Career Guide.
Don’t ask questions they’ve answered elsewhere.
Prepare for these interviews by Googling as much of the information as you can ahead of time so that the interview time is dedicated to learning things you couldn’t have discovered any other way. Check out the person’s website, work history, interviews they’ve given, blog posts or articles they’ve published, their social media and LinkedIn feed, etc.
It’s your job to lead the conversation, not theirs.
Some people can easily talk about themselves. Some people need more guidance, more follow-up questions. Be prepared for either.
Other issues to consider
10 things you shouldn’t talk about in a job interview. Play it by ear in an informational interview.
- Interview Questions
- Reflection Prompts
And remember to reframe your negative thoughts and emotions about this experience.
Next week: Monday AND Wednesday
Zoom for Monday: https://bsu.zoom.us/j/7090213081
Zoom for Wednesday: www.tinyurl.com/card-directions
One final image to reflect on: