70% of the jobs available are not advertised. How can you find these hidden opportunities during your job search?
Informational interviews are an essential strategy to find the jobs that never make it to job boards or websites. To learn more, we joined GradProSkills workshop Networking Through Informational Interviews (GPCB699) - co-hosted with Concordia Career and Planning Services (CAPS). Kristel Kabigting, CAPS career advisor, explains step-by-step how to conduct effective informational interviews to direct you in your career planning and job search.
What is an informational interview?
It is a 30-minute informal conversation that you initiate with a professional in your field to ask questions about the individual's job, company and area of expertise. The information gathered in this manner guides your job search and helps you learn more about your career choice. Informational interviews allow you to meet the right people, make an impression, and expand your professional network.
Why informational interviews are essential
1. Gathering Information and Growing your Networking
The informational interview must be part of your job search toolbox. As the name suggests, you focus on collecting information about the field, the industry, career tips, and the employer's hiring process. Informational interviews are great for professional networking as you informally meet people in the industry and learn insights that you would not easily gather elsewhere.
But make careful note of the golden rule. You never invite someone to an informational interview and ask for a job or a referral! The informational interview is about making an impression, not putting the person on the spot.
2. It Is a Free Mentoring Session
Help can come to you in multiple formats, and one of them is to receive valuable and free mentorship from experts in your industry. Seasoned professionals are happy to talk about their careers and their daily job.
Ask tailored and open-ended questions to let people speak freely. Use the opportunity to ask how your interviewee developed vital competencies to get the job and subsequent promotions. More importantly, use the interview to clarify what skills you need to develop to get your dream job. It is useful to ask how a typical day in the job looks like to assess if that work fits your assumptions.
3. Get Insights Into the Hiring Processes
Companies are increasingly using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter top candidates' resumes before a human reviews them. Requesting an informational interview with one of the company's employees can be an opportunity to ask about the hiring process, and develop a better tuned application that will make it though the ATS.
Ask questions about the company's culture and values, and why people enjoy working there. Learn the company's insights to tailor your job application and show you went the extra mile to know the employer. More importantly, you can assess if the company's values fit into your aspirations and if you fit into its work culture. Doing this reflection in advance can lead to a stronger application and interview synergy.
Three steps to conduct a successful informational interview
1. Find People in Your Network
Firstly, talk to your close contacts (family, grad school cohort, friends and professors) about your professional goals. This sounds obvious but we often overlook that our personal contacts may know someone who can help you professionally.
LinkedIn is an excellent source with contacts in the industry you are joining. Look for potential contacts among your first connections, then move to your second and third-level connections. Always personalize your messages to connect with professionals on LinkedIn. Use the application search features to filter results by individuals, company, industry, region and Concordia Alumni.
Kristel advised having an updated LinkedIn profile as it looks professional and maximizes your chances to show up in professional searches. Learn to build a robust online presence with GradProSkills workshops: LinkedIn for Beginners (GPCB684) or Optimizing LinkedIn (GPCB602).
2. Be Prepared
Before the informational interview, research the professionals you are talking to via their LinkedIn profile to know more about their work background, job titles, special certifications and career progression. Check for commonalities or something especial on their careers as a good ice breaker.
Kristel strongly advises knowing what information you want to get out of the conversation. And why you are reaching your interviewees in the first place. Remember never to ask for a job, a referral or if you can send your resume (even though Kristel recommends to have a resume prepared in case they ask for it). Be courteous and do not ask intrusive questions.
3. Be Thankful for Someone's Time
Immediately after the interview, send a thank-you email for the person's time spent with you. Add two takeaways from your conversation to show you acknowledged the person's contribution to your career goals. In the future, to maintain a connection, you can always send relevant articles and links that might be helpful and occasionally interact with their online posts by liking, sharing or writing a thoughtful comment. If they have given you valuable advice that worked for you in the end, reach out and let them know. These simple gestures show appreciation and keep the connection alive.
For support and resources available to Concordia graduate students visit
For tips and tools to boost your job search check
GradProSkills workshop Job Search Strategies (GPCB619)
Good luck with your job search!