Australia Informational Interviewing

Australia Informational Interviewing

As a newcomer or pending newcomer to Australia, you have much to gain by displaying initiative and skills. In particular, you need to make contacts (and use those you already have) and take full advantage of them through ˜information interviews”.

Australia Information interviews

˜Information interviews” are about asking appropriate people smart questions (see below) to gather information to help you with your job search. They are not about asking people for a job. Do not interview people about their work and then ask if their organisation has any positions available. You have approached them to listen not sell yourself. Of course, if they suggest you send them your CV, ask if they would prefer a paper or an electronic copy and send it as soon as possible. They may well know of a job you can apply for or know someone who could be interested in employing you, and be in a position to put your CV forward. But leave it up to them to take that step.

On the phone or in person, always be well mannered and professional. Dress and groom well for in-person meetings. Even if the person isn’t forthcoming with the kind of information you want, be patient and polite. Try to leave everyone with a good impression. Also leave them your contact details preferably your card with your phone number and email address. They may find the time or reason to be more helpful later, or think of someone they know who can help you. Creating a genuinely good impression and being easilyaccessible are the foundations of effective networking.

Who to interview

The best people to talk to are those who work in roles, organisations or fields similar to the ones that interest you in your job search, or who recruit professionals like you. However, you are unlikely to make much headway by directly approaching, for example, the head accountant at a major bank, the head engineer at a large engineering firm, or the human resources director at a hospital. They simply have little time to handle the many speculative enquiries that can come their way.

A better strategy is to make a list of people you know and more casual acquaintances who may be able to help or put you in touch with other people who may be of help. Start your list by considering:

Relatives, Friends, Neighbours, Teachers or lecturers, if you are studying, Other migrants to Australia. If you have children, parents of their school friends. Members of churches, sports clubs or any other organisations you join. Professional association contacts. Professional associations are an especially rich source of information and contacts. Chances are, there is one for people who do your kind of work, and it will have a website with allyou need to know. Professional associations hold conferences and seminars, and have special interest groups. They also tend to have less formal get-togethers and activities where members have plenty of time to get to know each other.

In general, try to establish an initial rapport with people by finding out a little about them and establishing common ground or interests. Do not be shy about asking them if they can spare some time say, 20 minutes in the next few days or the following week so you can ask them for advice. If you are candid about your situation, they are likely to be sympathetic.

Exchange cards and suggest you meet for a tea or coffee. If that’s not possible, try to arrange a suitable time for a chat on the phone. While making the purpose of your conversation clear, its best not to refer to it as an ˜information interview”, which sounds rather interrogative and daunting.

If people do not call you back

If you leave a voicemail message for a person and they do not return your call, try one more time, but stop after that. If you email them and they do not reply, likewise try one more time. Then move to the next person on your list. If you phone, a colleague or assistant answers and the person you want is unavailable, ask them when is a good time to call back or when you are most likely to catch them.

Smart questions

The key to leading an information interview is to break the conversation down into sets of general, job-specific and more personally applicable questions. You might start with:

What are the growth areas and therefore those with the greatest job opportunities in the industry/profession/sector?

What are the key issues or recent changes in the industry/profession/sector?

What skills are in high demand?

Where are vacancies and/or skill shortages most likely to be found? (For example, in regional centres, poorer suburbs of major cities or small country towns.)

What local knowledge do I need to work in the industry/profession/sector?

Is knowledge of specific legislation, regulations, frameworks and/or standards needed?

If the conversation is about a particular organisation, your questions will be more focused. For example:

How big is the company?

What is its structure? (Head office, suburban branches, regional operations, etc)

Is it in a growth phase, and if so, what parts of it are growing?

Is it just sales and marketing, or does it do research and development as well?

What is the nature of the company’s employee and leadership culture? (For example, in terms of hierarchy, innovation, feedback, promotion, etc.)

Then you might focus on the organisation’s recruiting:

What methods does it use to find and recruit staff ?

What does it look for in CVs when recruiting for the kind of positions I am looking for?

Are there many people from other countries and/or diverse backgrounds working here at present?

Now you can get down to more personal matters, such as:

Are my assumptions about an industry, job or organisation correct? (Whatever those assumptions might be.)

How are my qualifications likely to be perceived? (Especially in the context of them being overseas qualifications.)

Do you think I have any gaps or shortcomings in my qualifications or experience?

If so, how do you think I can overcome them?

How are the roles available likely to be different or similar to what I have done before? (More or less specialised, more

or less autonomy, more or less valued, etc.)

How do you think I can increase my chances of gaining employment in your field?