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You may reach a point in your Informational Interviewing when you have defined your goals and interviewed knowledgeable people in your chosen field, but you have not yet obtained a job. What you need are more contacts, that is, people who know people who may have a job for you.

Techniques that use personal contacts are the most successful. Studies at Harvard University by sociologist Mark Granovetter examined professionals who successfully changed jobs. Three-fourths of the successful job seekers obtained their employment through their own initiative and personal solicitations to potential employers. (For comparison, the "standard" methods, such as use of ads, employment agencies and recruiters, and "others" accounted for less than ten percent each of total successful job landings. U.S. Department of Labor and other studies confirm and elaborate these findings. The successful "personal contact" methods include those described in this Workbook.)

Here are the most common methods by which employers find employees in order of priority and success:

  1. Word-of-mouth contacts, employee referrals, networking

  2. Internal job postings

  3. College/high school recruitment

  4. Search firms, employment agencies

  5. Check callback files

  6. Want ads

Here are the ways most people search for jobs:

  1. Classified/want ads

  2. Applications at personnel departments

  3. Recruiters, headhunters, agencies

  4. High school/college placement

  5. Direct mailings

Informational Interviews can lead you to jobs because the people that you meet provide a network of relationships to other people, whose network of relationships may include a person who has a job for you. Research shows that you are about three to five people away from the person you want to meet who is a key to your next job opportunity. For example, you may not realize that your own contacts or circle of acquaintances may include at least two hundred individuals. If each contact knows two hundred others, each of whom knows two hundred more, your "contact pool" is a combined network of about eight million individuals.

You will therefore need to prioritize your potential contacts into the following three categories:

1.  AA or Primary Contacts: AA contacts are your current network of family, friends, and colleagues--people with whom you already have a relationship and from whom you probably already have received referrals for Informational Interviews.

2.  AB or Bridge Contacts: AB contacts are people who can provide you with information on the industry you are researching. They are likely to be experts in their fields, and have networks of their own. AB contacts may not have the authority to hire you, but they have industry knowledge you need, and they can give you valuable advice and feedback. They can refer you to other AB contacts, or in some cases, can lead you to the decision-makers who can hire you for existing openings, or who can create or tailor new ones.

3.  AC or Target Contacts: AC contacts are the individuals in an organization with the authority to make you a job offer, or at least, are close to those in decision-making roles. Once you have identified the field or industry that is right for you (will let you use your skills and interests; reflects your values; supports your long-term goals), you will want to identify specific AC targets within the specific organizations for which you want to work. As you become more comfortable in Informational Interviews, you will be able to refine and focus upon your discussions so as to get referrals for Networking Interviews.

Networking and Informational Interviews are similar in that both provide useful information and are a way to expand you circle of contacts. A Networking Interview ( unlike a Job Interview ) is, however, more clearly aimed at providing you with access to appropriate targets, people that your contact knows. Try to locate Gate Keepers--people who can offer you multiple referrals related to your job objective.

It is a big mistake to ask for an Informational Interviewing and attempt to convert it into a Job Interview .Never misrepresent yourself this way.

Try to elicit as much active assistance as possible from your contact. The best possible outcome occurs if your contact sets up the meeting with the target and attends. Almost as helpful:the contact calls to set up the meeting; or the contact writes a letter, perhaps encloses your resume and recommends meeting you. It is certainly still very useful to you if the contacts allow you to use their name.

In planning the Networking Interview, consider the following points (suggested by career consultant David Rottman).

(1)   Focus on outcomes.  What do you want to know?  What do you want to reveal?  Avoid vague or hidden expectations.  The final outcome of each meeting - help in the referral process to increase the scope of our relationship network - must be specifically asked for.

(2)   Questions that are too specific or too general are likely to break the rapport in a Networking Interview.  Stay away from broad, naive, innocent queries at one extreme - and prying, confidential, proprietary, highly-specific queries at the other.

(3)   Virtually any career obstacle, or disadvantage you possess, can be turned into an advantage by proper relationship networking.  You can find targets who share your disadvantage.  You can exploit your obstacle by seeking advice from a target who has already made successful - but difficult - transitions into your field of interest.

(4)   You can conduct your network campaign in a "wide-angle" mode, by asking those you already know for any referrals in a particular geographic area or industry.  Or, you can network in a closed-end or "telephoto" mode, by finding out  who would know the important person you need to meet.  For example, if you wanted to meet the president of a company, you might scrutinize a list of his board of directors, staff, related professionals the firm does business with, and the firm's clients or customers to discover names that friends of yours might know.

(5)   Practice your Networking skills in low-stress situations, and develop your own style before doing an Interview that counts.  You must be able to explain your background very briefly - with confidence and poise - and then ask where you can best be utilized.

(6)   Use the Networking process to form a bridge into the job interview process.  You may ask, "What kind of people, what sort of personality, does your organization look for when staffing up?"

A relationship network resembles a spider's web: touch one part of the web and the rest reverberates; push a little too hard, and the web snaps.

Social Intelligence, Emotional Competence

People with high social intelligence are enormously qualified for life, said Howard Gardner, a psychologist at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.  Dr. Gardner's 1983 book A Frames of Mind(Basic Books), in which he proposed that there are several other important kinds of intelligence beyond abilities for math or language, has been highly influential in the new appreciation of social intelligence, or what has been called A emotional competence.

Social intelligence, Dr. Gardner said, allows people to take maximum advantage of the resources of others.  We are finding that much of people'seffective intelligence is, in a sense, outside the brain, Dr. Gardner said.Your intelligence can be within other people, if you know how to get them to help you. In life, that's the best strategy: mobilize other people.

He adds: If you have social intelligence, you know that this only works if there's some kind of mutuality. If it's all one way, people will end up feeling you've exploited them.Making professional contacts is an exchange of information, a social, a form of learned behavior.

It is impossible to learn to play the violin, to learn to swim or to dance, by merely reading a book.These skills -- like contact or informational interviewing, professional networking, contact development, job interviewing, salary negotiation -- all require practice, practice, and more practice. This is the same answer the Jewish grandmother gave to the stranger who asked her, Can you give me directions to get to Carnegie Hall?

You cannot learn all of the skills needed to find work in a social universe or community of employers by simply reading this or any other printed matter.You must be out there getting interviews (and even getting rejected) for these methods to work.It is the difference between theory and experiment. Let me say this in another way: If you wish to create children, it's fine to study Freud; but eventually you have to make serious, practical contact with the opposite sex.

Expanding Your Network

Networking is an improvable skill, a learnable art, like emotional intelligence, which has such very high survival value in the marketplace that Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence, 1995, Bantam Books, NY) calls it's the master aptitude.

But to those who are reluctant to call or write to strangers, to ask for advice, it is important to overcome your resistance. It may be useful to remember: Imperfect movement is better than perfect paralysis. >

Using the Telephone to Get Face to Face Meetings

Telephones bring order and organization to our lives. Yet they change the nature of how you communicate and exercise your social intelligence, and how you mobilize other people

However, for networking purposes, if you are very shy, it probably makes sense to (1) write, (2) call, and (3) visit a target in that order.

To create an honest (low-pitched voice, speaking slowly) and intelligent (speaking fast) impression on others, your wisest policy is to present your truest and best natural self in any interview.

When you see how you present yourself in an interview on video-tape, you can make an objective analysis of how you are seen by others.  This is a major benefit of video-tape feedback in preparation and coaching for information-, networking- and job-interviews.  It helps to have such rehearsals or practice sessions immediately prior to the interview.  It also helps if your practice coach asks tough, even hostile, questions. This helps you make your mistakes in a practice setting which does not hurt your job-search. Since everyone will make mistakes in the art of networking, it helps a great deal if you make all your mistakes as quickly as possible.

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