Monday, April 25, 2011
When I was trying to break into the publishing industry, I did a few informational interviews to find out more about publishing and to get advice about next steps. I found the experience to be invaluable, and now that I've "made it", I'm happy to give back and grant informational interviews when requested. I've been doing quite a few lately, and it inspired me to write a post about tips for how to make the most of your time.
-Confirm your meeting/phone call the day before. And be understanding if the meeting needs to be postponed or rescheduled.
-Come prepared with questions to ask, and don't be afraid to take notes. This shows me that you're prepared and serious about my time. Don't expect the person you're meeting with to ask all the questions. They're not interviewing you; this is an opportunity for you to ask questions that may help you in your quest to break into the industry and learn more.
-Research ahead of time. Google both the person you're interviewing and the industry you're trying to learn about. These days, you can find so much information about publishing online. Don't waste your time or the time of the person you're talking to. For example, if you Google me, my blogs come up, as well as the interview I did for the Career Cookbook. There, I talk all about how I got into publishing and the nature of the industry in general. I don't mind talking about these things again, but I'm always impressed when someone tells me (whether in an informational interview or actual interview) that they've read about me, and then ask a question that expands on what I've already said.
-Be professional and put you best foot forward. Even if you're not interviewing for a position, if you impress the person, they'll be sure to remember you and refer you to other jobs or keep you in mind when future openings arise.
-Show up on time, and take the person's lead as to when the meeting is over. It might be a good idea to ask the person how much time they have at the beginning of the interview.
-Send a thank you email or card afterward
Some potential questions to ask (again, don't ask these questions if you can already find the answers online/elsewhere):
-Do you like your job? Would you recommend this field?
-How did you break into this industry? How do people generally break into this field?
-When you're hiring people for XX position, what qualities do you look for most? or What qualities do you feel are most important for this field?
-What is your favorite aspect of your job? Your least favorite?
-What do you wish you could have known back when you were starting out?
-What is a typical workday like? What are you typical hours per week?
At the last informational interview I gave, the person brought me a little box of mini cupcakes as a way of thanking me for my time. Gifts are never expected (and I would strongly suggest NOT bringing a gift to an actual interview!), but I was actually quite touched/appreciative. Plus, they were delicious. However, in the past I've been sent a person's self-published book as a thank-you for my time, which gave me a bad taste in my mouth, because it made me feel that the person was a little disingenuous about asking for publishing career advice, when perhaps he really wanted an opportunity to share his writing with me.
How many of you have done informational interviews to break into your industry? Any other tips/suggested questions to ask?
Read more informational interviews tips/questions to ask here and here.