The "Informational Interview" - a job hunt tip?

Wes Bucey

Quite Involved in Discussions
Over the past eleven years, I've written about almost every aspect of efficient, effective job hunting. As I reviewed all my threads over the past couple of days, I realized I had never touched on one tip/trick/technique which some employment counselors often recommend to folks trying to get a job in an industry where they have no previous experience and zero networking contacts:
The Informational Interview
I did some research on the topic - I had been aware of it for years, but NEVER encountered an individual I knew who had successfully used the method to wedge his/her way into a new company or industry. Neither did I know of any fellow executives who had even been approached for such an interview, let alone grant one.

As I researched, I became cognizant of one glaring shortcoming in the literature I was researching - few details of an actual interview from identifying the prospect, making the appointment, conducting the interview, following up. Everything I seemed to come across were "hypotheticals," not actual case studies.

It turns out that Richard Bolles (What Color is Your Parachute) coined the term, but he's also kind of vague about details - here is one of his "summaries" on the topic:
Informational interviewing's purpose is to find out what a job is like, or what kind of organizations hire for such jobs. You go talk to a prospective fellow employee, to find out about the job from the inside. Say I want to be a congressman's aide. And I have a particular congressman (or congresswoman) in mind. I go talk to the aide to some other congress person, and find out what that job is like, before I ever apply to my target.
So, my question about the technique is multi-faceted, actually many questions, only a few of which I list here:

  1. how do you identify prospective interviewees?
  2. are you upfront you are hoping to enter the industry, perhaps even with THAT organization?
  3. how do you keep from looking like someone engaging in corporate espionage?
  4. what kind of questions do you ask to give you sufficient insight into whether (a) you could qualify without further training/education? (b) you would like the job/company/industry once you learned more about it? (c) opportunities/openings, pay, and promotional opportunities meet your needs?
So, my questions to Cove Readers:

  1. "Have you ever engaged in an "Informational Interview" from either side of the interview?"
  2. "If yes, can you tell us about your experience?"
  3. "What was the ultimate outcome, if you know it?"
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The only extent to which I have done anything close to this is to talk shop to other HSEQ people about their employer. The sort of questions I ask is what are they like, whats the main man (or woman) like?

The one undiscussable topic is incomes although asking about salary in general terms will some times solicit useful information but things change quickly with changing economic times.

A lady I was talking to about 12 months ago on a course said that in order to get compliance, she said to a scaffolder on the job she was working on " we pay you $400,000 per year to do this and if your not going to do it the way we want we will find someone else. " With that I nearly fell off the chair. Then she explained that on this iconic Oil & Gas project they worked for day rates as contractors and they worked 4 weeks on and 4 weeks off so I found that useful information because its been quite some years since I have worked on such projects.

Most of these projects are in the final stages now so I would imagine such incomes have fallen to less than half of that figure now.

Apologies for meandering off the topic a bit.

Wes Bucey

Quite Involved in Discussions
Actually, not far off the topic. Union Stagehands at the New York Metropolitan Opera make about $300,000 or more USD per year. that would be about $320,000 Australian Dollars. I am surprised folks talk about income of their own jobs - it's kind of a taboo topic in USA except for some blowhards trying to show off how great they are. (or, lately, minimum wage folks trying to get a raise for their entire category of worker.)
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