Thursday, September 13, 2012

How do you know the company you are going to be working for is right for you?

By conducting an informational interview, that's how.

And what is an informational interview? Here's Mark Nichol, editor of the Daily Writing Tips blog, explaining the term:

It’s a meeting with someone in a position, department, company, or profession that intrigues you. You’re not certain whether you are suited for or interested in that career, so you ask someone who knows what working in such an environment involves. (Equally important is what an informational interview is not: It is not a stratagem for finagling an opportunity to ask for a job under the guise of merely obtaining information.)

This seems like something we would do as a matter of course. But do we do it systematically? Do we do it in the manner Nichol prescribes? Ah! There's the rub.

From how to set up an informational interview and what to do if the subject declines to the questions you must ask — Nichol covers all the bases.

Coming to the questions, Nichol makes it clear you must find out what you can through your own research first. Then he provides a dozen questions which, he stresses, you must not just recite: "The interview should be more of a conversation." Sound advice, that.

Here are some of the questions on Nichol's list:
  • How do you spend your workday, and what are the weekly, monthly, and yearly cycles, if any, of your workload?
  • What is the balance of routine and novelty in your job? Does your work largely follow a set pattern, and does that appeal to you, or is it mostly unpredictable, and do you like that?
  • What type of skills and knowledge did you bring to your job, and what have you acquired? What skills or knowledge do you apply most often?
  • (Briefly outline your educational/work history.) How would one start out in this profession, and what other coursework or job experience would you recommend or would you consider indispensable?
And, in conclusion, Nichol offers two important tips:
The most important thing to say, of course, is “Thank you — I appreciate that you took the time and effort to help me in my research” — and to do so again in writing (in a mailed note or postcard, not an email message).

Also, honour your pledge not to exploit the person’s offer to meet with you as a pretence for hinting about employment. 

Again, very sound advice. If you are about to begin your job search for the first time, or even if you have a few years' experience and are looking for new options, you will want to read what Mark Nichol has to say about informational interviews: "What is an informational interview?"


  1. Hmmmm... why write on a mailed note or postcard and not an email? I didn't get this bit.

  2. Paromita: That is one way to stand out and be remembered, perhaps. Also, a mailed note indicates the job-seeker has taken some trouble to thank the person involved. This will surely count in the job-seeker's favour.

    (I am assuming here that the job-seeker would do all this with sincerety.)

  3. Hmmm... OK. But tell me something, if someone mailed you a letter / or any form of communication, typed out with a type-writer, in stead of mailing you a printed copy of the letter... wouldn't you think of that person as backward / not in-sync with today's technologies... rather than thinking that he took the trouble to type out a mail on a type-writer?

  4. Frankly, I never even thought of a typewriter in this context. (Who owns a typewriter nowadays? I don't, contrary to what you may believe. :-). Nor do I know anyone who does.) This note would be handwritten, naturally.

  5. No, that wasn't my point Sir. It was a comparison. And I think it served its purpose :-)

    See how you reacted to a 'type-writer' - "Who owns a typewriter nowadays?" Clearly, in your head (and in mine as well) type-writer is back-dated, is obsolete. If we receive some communication which has been keyed out of a type-writer, we would think "Which age does this guy live in!"

    Similarly, I, very strongly feel that if someone received a handwritten note mailed to him, in stead of an email, he would be thinking that the world is regressing, in front of his eyes! Unless, the sender has very clearly established that he lives in an undeveloped city / town, with no internet connection.

    No Sir, I don't think that it is wise to send a hand-written thank you note via mail (if the guy sits next to me in office, I would consider a hand-written note - it would be cute :-)) to ANYONE in this world - least of all to someone who might be my future employer / help me get a job / future colleague.

  6. Okay, Paro, you have made your point.

    But, since a handwritten note is so rare, I wonder: Won't it make a big impact? If I were the recipient of such a note from a job-seeker, I would be impressed. I must concede, though, that I am an old fogey. What do I know. :-)

  7. :-) each to his own Sir! If I ever have to apply to you for a job, I'll send a hand-written note. But if you ever have to apply to me for a job, NO hand-written notes please! ;)

  8. Guess who sends handwritten thank-you notes? N. Chandrasekaran, the CEO and managing director of TCS.

    Here's an excerpt from the "Road Warrior" section of "Fortune" magazine (Oct. 8):

    "When I get home from a business trip, I send handwritten thank-you notes. On the road I take notes in longhand. It's personal, and it shows appreciation for people making time for me. I use a fountain pen -- a Mont Blanc and a Waterman -- and use blue ink, always."

    Classy, don't you think?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.