The informational interview is an important tool for you to use in your job hunt, as it’s a popular way of networking within your industry in Canada. You will be amazed at how friendly and open people will be to meeting with you if you take the chance and ask. Remember — he who dares, wins!
An informational interview is essentially the art of leveraging or making a new contact within your industry and getting together to learn more from this person about how this sector operates. It’s a casual interview where the end goal is to learn about how your industry works in Canada and increase your chances of finding employment.
Steps to a successful informational interview
Step 1: Find a single industry contact
Use Google, join Moving2Canada on LinkedIn, or use business directories to come up with a list of companies in your specific field. If you have a contact through a friend or if we introduce you to a contact, then this saves you the hardest part.
Step 2: Make a request for a short meeting
Send a short, concise email that really sells your skill set and experience level (you don’t necessarily need to send your resume at this point) or give them a quick call. Ask if they would be willing to meet you for a coffee to discuss how the [insert particular field of work] industry works. For example, “Would you be open to meeting for a coffee at a time that suits your schedule?” We always recommend using telephone over email, where possible.
Do not lead by asking for a job; ask them for their help and guidance. Asking someone for coffee is a common Canadian practice, and this will allow you 15-20 minutes to interview this person and gain key insights. You could possibly make new connections in your industry.
If you do not get a response to your email, always follow up within 3-4 days. Your goal is to show this person that you would like to meet them, so don’t be shy. Following up by email or telephone will show this person that you are motivated.
Step 3: Informational Interview
Do your research. It’s crucial that you do your research on this person and their company to gain maximum benefit for your time. Use LinkedIn, Google and the company website to gather information.
Don’t push your own agenda on first meeting. Ask lots of open questions and listen intently. Once you have made first connection then ideally they may be open to assisting you further by telephone or email.
Always ask the “Who else do you know?” question at the end to see if they can recommend any additional contacts you could learn from. It’s crucial that you ask this in person.
Step 4: Follow Up
Keep in mind that they probably won’t know of a suitable position for you at that exact time but they may know someone who does or have something coming up in the future. Ensure that you go to great lengths to thank this person for any assistance they can provide. A handwritten note, or even a box of chocolates, is a nice gesture. This person could be the key to opening doors for you in the future, so ensure they feel appreciated and motivated to help you. Maintain contact with this person on a weekly basis until you have succeeded in finding a job. Why? It’s crucial to keep yourself in their mind, so if you write them a brief note each week with a positive update, they will feel appreciated.
If you can practice these simple steps and combine them with attending networking events, you will see your contact base expand very quickly. Managing your contacts is something that is crucial to your success. We strongly recommend that you make a list of all your contacts, target companies and create a system whereby you can track communications with each person. A simple spreadsheet can give you a more visual overview of the team of people you have gathered to assist you in your job search.
Don’t assume that everyone has time. Most people can be easily convinced to meet you for a quick coffee provided you use a little charm and perseverance. Don’t be afraid to contact someone 3-4 times, it shows you value their time and are willing to work for it. If someone is busy and hard to reach, we always recommend offering to buy someone lunch near their building. It’s often hard for them to say no.
Other employment resources
Now that you’ve mastered how to handle interview questions, here are some more resources to help you win interviews and find a job in Canada.
- 57 interview questions you could be asked
- Practical advice for finding jobs in Canada
- Adapating to the resume format in Canada
- How to master networking in Canada
For vacancies, visit our Moving2Canada Jobs Board.