Informational Interviews are one of the greatest resources any new geek can hope for. I constantly receive questions from new, and aspiring geeks asking what skills they need to land a job, and what certifications or degrees will give them the best opportunities. I generally give the same answer, “Go ask your local tech companies and see what they want.”
Informational interviews are completely normal in the world of business. This is simply where you meet with an employee of the company and you discuss what the company does, and what they are looking for. This is especially useful in the tech world because you want a job, and they need employees with specific skills. Too many times new techs don’t realize the simple fact that specific skill sets can be difficult for companies to find regardless of how much they’re willing to pay. (How many Dart experts are on the market in your area?) If they can impress you with how cool their company is and you then decide to learn specific skills so that they can hire you in the future it’s a situation where everyone comes out happier.
To line up informational interviews basically you just have to be brave enough to ask for them. Simply do a Google search for tech companies in your area, and then start emailing to request a meeting. If they have an HR email go for that, or if they have a PR email that should work too. If they don’t list either just email the same department and see what response you receive.
The most important part of this process is to realize that not everyone will email you back, and many will refuse to meet. As with all sales processes this will be a numbers game. For every 5-10 companies you email 1 or 2 will agree to meet. If you want to meet with a lot of people, you’ll have to contact exponentially more companies.
Once you do setup an interview there’s only 3 things you need to do to make it a success:
- Research the company beforehand – Know what the company does, and have specific questions to ask when you arrive. You don’t have to have brilliant questions, but you need to show you did your homework and that you have real interest in what they do.
- Don’t be overly hungry for a job – Informational interviews are about possible employment opportunities in the future. If you walk in essentially begging to be hired now it’s exceedingly annoying. This should be a relaxed conversation with no expectations.
- Don’t look at your smartphone – This is a business meeting. Looking at your smartphone for nearly an reason signals that you are bored.
- Be On Time – Simply be 5 minutes early and it makes hiring managers very impressed. If the first meeting someone has with you is when you’re 20 minutes late it makes hiring people feel as if you can’t even do something as simple as show up on time. (Managers have a surprisingly long memory when it comes to people annoying them)
You do those few things enough times and it will give you guidance to success that no book, teacher, or YouTube personality can ever compete with. Always remember that the Tech World is very much a Community and that helping each other out is built into how we do business. You see yourself as a worthless newbie whereas other people see someone that in 5 or 10 years may be making 7 figure purchasing decisions.