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Informational Interviewing – Your New ‘Best Friend’

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One of the best aspects of the frum community is our dedication to chesed. From a myriad of organizations to shul committees to neighbors doing whatever they can do to help those in need, chesed is one of the main pillars of our community.

Have you ever seen this scenario? Someone walks up to another person in shul and laments the disastrous impact that his unemployment has had on his family. We all know that networking is the best way to find a job, so gathering his courage, he says, “You work at X corporation, can you please hand in my resume?”

Trying to be polite and empathetic, the other person responds, “I will try to do whatever I can.” Weeks and even months may pass since the unemployed person asked for an update only to be told that the other person is still “doing the best he can.”

“He is doing the best he can” for a person who desperately needs a job? It can be hard to believe that a real attempt has been made. People may rightly wonder why an employed community member wouldn’t try to do everything in his or her power to help a person in need of a job. Does he simply not care about the unemployed members of his community?

I am confident that the vast majority of people want to help their friends and neighbors if they can. Consider what a personal recommendation means for the person making that introduction. People spend years building their professional reputation. They pay close attention to all of their actions. They work hard, long hours and often go above and beyond the call of duty. Like it or not, when an employee makes a personal referral, he is putting his professional reputation on the line. If things do not work out, or if a recommendation is made for a person who does not share that same kind of work ethic, the finger of blame will be pointed back at that employee. Many years of dedication can be compromised by a poor referral.

It’s not that they don’t believe their unemployed acquaintances have the ability to work hard and succeed, but they really have no way of being sure. As much as people may want to help, can they really afford to put their professional reputation on the line for someone they don’t really know?

At Touro, we provide our students with a methodology to help minimize that referral reluctance. Instead of asking friends or acquaintances for a job or a referral, we advise our students to ask for an informational interview.

The website, Quintcareer, states, “Here’s a startling statistic: One out of every 200 resumes (some studies put the number as high as 1,500 resumes) results in a job offer. One out of every 12 informational interviews, however, results in a job offer. That’s why informational interviewing is the ultimate networking technique, especially considering that the purpose of informational interviewing is not to get job offers, … but … interviewing designed to produce information. What kind of information? The information you need to choose or refine a career path, learn how to break in and find out if you have what it takes to succeed.”

It involves meeting with people who are currently working in the career in which you are interested so you can get a better, more accurate understanding of the specific job or career and to build a network of contacts in that field. Quintcareers has an excellent step-by-step Informational Interview that can be viewed at www.quintcareers.com.

Why is this methodology successful? You are not asking for a job or a referral; you are asking the person to share their perspective on a career or position in which they are currently working.

Make a request for a 20- to 30-minute meeting which is a small investment in time and is a much more likely to produce a positive response. Most community members would be willing to give a half hour to help if they can. In addition, the request itself is flattering; you are acknowledging the person as an expert in the field who can be helpful to you.

Make a formal request to meet with them at a scheduled time in their office. Your goal is to make this as official a visit as you can. Avoid having a brief discussion after minyan or at a local restaurant. A meeting in their office will allow you to find that person in their professional setting and state of mind.

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