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I had the pleasure of meeting with an exceptional young professional earlier this week for an informational interview. I sent out a tweet the week or two before inviting my followers located in the Washington, DC Metro Area to meet with me for lunch. This young lady was one of several who responded, and I was anxious to meet her.

Now, it’s important to say that I didn’t have a job opening to offer her when we made plans–that’s not the goal of an informational interview. In fact, as a jobseeker, you shouldn’t bring up the topic at all. Kudos to her, she didn’t even bring her resume. So, why on Earth was she meeting me?

  1. Find out more about the entry-level job market: She has been serving as an executive assistant since graduating but would like to get back into her field, public relations. Having worked in public relations in DC for the past five years, I was able to provide her with a lot of (hopefully helpful!) information for her search.
  2. Find out more about herself: It’s not unusual for entry-level job candidates to be somewhat uncertain of the career path they should take. Because I’ve worked in many different types of public relations environments, I was able to ask her questions that got her thinking about the best environment for her. I’m 99% sure she walked away with an entirely different picture of her options.
  3. Uncover contacts and specific leads: For public relations specifically, I host a LinkedIn group in which I post every internship and entry-level job that comes across my desk. Since she’s a member, I was not able to give her any additional information there. But, because we both learned a little bit more about what she was looking for, I steered her in the direction of several different companies in the area she should be targeting and following closely.
  4. Buy me lunch: While I of course would have paid for both my meal and hers, she immediately picked up the check. That left a very favorable image of her in my mind. Candidates: Whether it’s coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, etc., always offer to pay when a hiring manager agrees to meet with you for an informational interview. It showed me how much she valued our meeting and the hour and a half I took out of my day to speak with her.
  5. Share with me something I didn’t already know: As I mentioned in my Examiner.com column last week, you’re not really networking and forming a relationship unless your contact with the individual is two-way and mutually beneficial. Although I couldn’t attend today, she notified me about “Engagement Imperative: Communicating in a Connected World,” an event that ended about an hour ago. Regardless, I was delighted she brought both the conference and hosting organization to my attention.

At the end of our meeting, I was so impressed with her poise and professionalism that I invited her to apply for Come Recommended’s public relations & social media assistant position, which until that moment was not being offered in the DC area.

What has been your experience with informational interviews? Have they been helpful? Why or why not?

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