The art of information interviews
Information interviews are all about talking to people in the know.
They offer you an effective and well-tested way of moving your life on by:
- Building new relationships
- Getting vital info on work opportunities
You’ll be getting live, up-to-date information from people who’ve faced the same kind of situations as yourself and found their own way forward.
And information interviews are not just useful for work opportunities. You’ll find them valuable too for making more of those other vital areas of your life – your learning, playing and giving.
1. Find three people
First list the questions you need answering:
- How is the field changing?
- Where are the growth opportunities?
- How can I get into it?
- What should I expect?
Next think of three people who can help you.
Find names by looking through your address book, business cards you’ve collected or Yellow Pages as well as asking friends to recommend contacts.
2. Arrange a meeting
- Introduce yourself (phone, e-mail or face to face) and say why you’ve made contact.
- Mention the people you know (ideally the person who recommended them)
- Explain you are interviewing key people in the sector – make them feel important
- Make it clear why you want the discussion and how it will help you.
- Ask for no more than 10 minutes or so and aim to meet them in person (ideally at work)
Be yourself and don’t be too pushy. Be ready to be knocked back and try alternatives such as “I know you’re extremely busy, but…” or “I really would appreciate your time.”
(You could practice making such a request with friends.)
If all else fails ask the person if they can recommend somebody else.
3. Carry out the interview
Start by thanking the person for seeing you. Aim to make a positive first impression. Smile and show you’re grateful for their precious time. Use the framework below for your questions.
Question Aims / details How did you get into this field of work? Explore both traditional and alternative entry routes plus skills/experience required
What excites you most about the job? Will it provide the things that really matter in your life? Does it:
Involve the skills you love using?
Build on your passions?
Involve people who inspire you in a place that energises you?
Link to your purpose in life?
Provide the right payoffs?
What’s not so exciting? Once again, test it against the things that really matter to you
How do you see the sector changing over the next 2-3 years? What challenges and problems do you foresee? You want to know what skills and experience they will value in the future.
What kind of people will the sector need in the future? Many job descriptions look at the present – you need to think ahead.
Can you suggest two or three other people who could help? Try identifying particular types of people and areas, e.g. personnel managers specialising in recruitment in the Manchester area.
Finally thank them for their time and follow up with a hand-written thank-you card.
4. Continuing the process
After interviewing the first three people you should have up to nine new names from their recommendations.
So now move on to your next three interviewees.
Keep questions as general as possible at first until you have lots of information.
Gradually home in on specific organisations (speaking to anyone you can) until you have the facts you need.
Then move on naturally to people who have the power to hire you.
As you move from one group to another, you will recognise the extent to which each provides those things that really matter in your life.
- Make sure it doesn’t become a job interview
- Don’t try giving your CV – it’s not a sales pitch
- Stick to the structure and time limit
- Note all information and look for themes
- If things goes wrong, say “Can you suggest anybody else?”
- Remember to send a thank-you card with your name and contact info.