Can you share some positive or negative experiences with informational interviewing?

I am giving a talk to future civil servants at the JSSA Employment and Career Services. I am talking about developing internal champions within the agency they want to work. Richard Nelson Bolles, in “What Color Is Your Parachute” suggests doing research to find needs that the job seeker is uniquely qualified to meet. He suggests finding the person who has the power to hire you and convincing them that you are the one in one hundred people who can help them with their most difficult challenges.

I realize that in the government, we have a transparent hiring process that is fair to all candidates, so this isn’t as easy to do in the civil service as it is in the private sector. At the same time, I followed Bolles techniques and was hired in a competitive process by hiring official who met me through my creative job seeking process.

So I wanted to know if anyone could comment. Has anyone “interviewed your for information” asking about trends and needs rather than directly asking for a job? How has that worked? And if you are a hiring manager, have you ever had someone make a presentation to you that made you wish that you could hire them, even though you didn’t have the money – or maybe someone who you did hire or send to someone who you knew was hiring?

I look forward to hearing from people.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

GovLoop Founder Steve Ressler does this better than anyone I know – he schedules meetings with key folks from across government – not looking for anything in particular, but just to sit down and learn from them. No agenda. Just a chance to hear from smart people and improve his understanding of the government ecosystem…and as a result, he has one of the largest networks of professional contacts (beyond the fact that he created GovLoop).

A hunch on what keeps people from conducting informational interviews: fear. Fear that the person will say “no” to a meeting. But my guess is that the people that we ask are often honored by the fact that they have been singled out for advice…and they’ll remember that person who came by their office when an opening comes available…most leaders want malleable learners on their teams, eh?

Alicia Mazzara

I have had people reach out to me just to ask for more background about a position or the organization I worked for, even if I didn’t have direct hiring authority. In social setting, we often talk about our jobs in pretty superficial way; in my experience, folks are usually very receptive and often flattered for a chance to share their specific knowledge. It can be a really valuable way to learn more about an industry or particular organization.

I think the term informational interview it sometimes overly formal — it can be as simple as a quick phone call, answering questions over email, or meeting in person if you both have time for that. Asking someone to grab a cup of coffee is a lot less intimidating than requesting an informational interview with them, but it can accomplish the same thing.

Stephanie Slade

Andy – I find, overwhelmingly, that the people I’ve asked to meet to discuss their career paths and whatnot are flattered by my request and more than happy to sit down with me over coffee to chat. There’s a tendency to worry the person is too busy. Realistically, they will almost always be able to make the time. They may even appreciate the chance to get out of the office for a bit and share their expertise/experience.