Info Interviews

An informational interview is an easy way of gathering first-hand information about the skills and personal qualities needed to succeed in a job. It’s not a job interview, that’s what makes it so well.

Who do you talk to?

People can help you answer career questions too. But you will not usually find these helpful people in the Human Resources Department of an organization.

Where are they?

Ask yourself this question: Who needs to know about the career I’m interested in? Usually it’s people who:

  •         hire others to do the job
  •         actually do the work
  •         train people to do the job (talk to community college instructors
  •         run professional organizations (Find the Encyclopedia of Associations at the library)

From these sources create a list of contacts.

How does it work?

Use your contact list to arrange an informational interview. This is an easy way of gathering first-hand information about the skills and personal qualities needed to succeed in a job. It’s not a job interview, that’s what makes informational interviewing work so well. Tell your contact: “I’m not looking for a job today. I’m only looking for some information to help me make a career decision.” This allows them to talk openly about their jobs, business, and industry.

What do I say?

Once you reach the correct person, tell him you have some quick questions and ask if he has a few moments. If he says, “No,” ask for a more convenient time. If he says, “Never, we don’t have any jobs available,” state again that you aren’t looking for a job today. You’re simply looking for information to help make career decisions. Most decision makers understand the need for good information and will help.

When interviewing, use some of the outer research questions. Remember that people love to talk about their work. If you ask good questions, listen carefully and take a real interest in what people say, you’ll learn much.

Outer research

If you can answer these 10 questions about any job that interests you, you’ll know whether your career choice is right.

  1. What is a typical workday like in the life of a __________?
  2. What experience, training, or skills are required to be competitive?
  3. Are there any special problem areas in the job? (dangerous conditions, high stress, boring repetition…..)
  4. What attitudes or personal qualities do employers want in those who do this job?
  5. Are there changes in the industry that will affect this job? (skill changes, automation, downsizing…)
  6. Is there a surplus, balance or shortage of people to do this job?
  7. What is the outlook for the industry? (Declining, growing, staying the same)
  8. What companies or organizations hire people to do this job?
  9. What are the average wages?

10.What are some related or similar jobs?

Inner Research

Inner research is career soul searching before and during job and career search. Start your inner research by spending some time answering these questions:

  1. If I could magically choose any career, what would it be? Why?
  2. How important is this change to me?
  3. What am I willing to do to make this change happen?
  4. How long and how hard am I willing to struggle?
  5. How will this change affect other important people in my life?

Answering these questions may lead to even more questions. Answer all of them. This career soul searching provides essential information for mapping out your career moves.

Age and Injury

How to talk about your age

There is a positive way to look at being older:

The good news is that you have had more time to obtain skills and develop profitable work attitudes. As you talk to employers, emphasize these. Focus on how you can do the job well, rather than on how old you are while you are doing it. Present your skills, attitudes, and results you’ve produced with pride, energy, and enthusiasm.

You can influence how a decision maker perceives your age:

  •         Make sure that your job goal is a good fit with your age. Truck drivers, for instance, come in all ages. Construction workers come mainly in one age – young.
  •         Make sure that your job goal matches your physical abilities. Employers only want to know that an older worker can physically do the job. Becoming a security guard is possible for an older person who is physically limited. However, if the job involves wrestling with troublemakers, then it is no longer suitable. Make sure you can physically do all parts of the job and then tell the employer this.

If you are still worried about your age:

  •         Check out the company before you interview. This may require dressing the part of a customer if you are applying at a store. Or waiting near the parking lot of a factory at quitting time. If everyone is under 30 and you are 55, you have a bigger challenge. Remember the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower: “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
  •         Check your appearance. Do you look older than you are? An interviewer does more than just listen to you. He or she will also notice how you look and act. Wear clothing that is stylish, but not too trendy. Get a more modern hairstyle. Learn to move and gesture with more energy. Ask your professional helper for feedback on whether your appearance matches your age.

Talking about abilities and limitations

In the interview, you can control how you present your physical abilities to an employer.

  •         Talk about what you can do–not what you can’t.
  •         Make sure you can do all parts of the job you are seeking. Be able to explain this to an interviewer with examples.
  •         If you have a release from you doctor, bring it with you. This is a benefit to the employer. It’s as if you have had a pre-employment physical.
  •         Help the employer be specific about the parts of the job he or she thinks you may not be able to do. You can only correct a misunderstanding, if you know about it.
  •         Be able to talk about any financial incentives an employer may access by hiring you.
  •         Be prepared to talk about possible job site modifications. You might not be able to change your physical abilities but you can change the job site to match them.

Remember, it’s not just your physical abilities an employer needs. Your attitude, skills, and results you can produce are also important. Let the employer know about these.

Talking about gaps in your employment history

It’s too late to change your work history, but you can present it in the best way possible:

  •         Be able to explain all the gaps. Most people have good reasons for them; practice saying yours.
  •         If jobs ended for reasons you couldn’t control (layoffs, closures, etc.), be able to explain these.
  •         If you made the choice to leave a job, be able to explain why without “bad mouthing” the employer.
  •         If you gained skills or attitudes during your breaks in employment, present these. We often learn valuable lessons outside the workplace that are useful in the workplace.
  •         To an employer, gaps mean that you might not stay long with the company or you may be undependable. Think about how long you would stay at a job before you go to the interview. What kind of commitment are you willing to make?