Many times young professionals focus on interviews as a step towards attaining your next job, yet there are many types of interviews that can be used to push your career ahead as an architect or designer. One of the more underrated interview types is the informational interview. It allows you to request an interview from a firm that might not be hiring currently, but may in the future, so by showing interest and networking with the decision makers ahead of time you are more likely to get called back.
So the next steps, after you have created a target list of firms you would like to work at, is to strategize how you might be able to use informational interviews as a networking tool.
How can this be strategically used to help you get a job?
- Build a network! You want to think of different ways in which you can have your candidacy remain on their mind, so that when the opportunity does come along, you are the first person they think of for the role. On top of that, you are giving them a chance to learn about who you are without the pressure to hire. With less pressure, you are going to create a professional relationship that connects back to your first impression and initial approach.
- It allows you to be pro-active! By showing a firm that you are truly interested in their mission and what they are trying to accomplish as a team, you are able to create a wonderful first impression. On top of that, their first impression of you will be when they are not being bombarded by applications, which creates a perception of organization and a deeper understanding of the industry. Not only that, but it shows that you are taking your career in Architecture seriously!
- Find out what they want in an ideal applicant! By meeting with the founder and the principal you are able to better understand what their expectations are and what they are looking for. You can look all over the web for profiles and biographies, but the best place to find the valuable information is straight from the founder and/or principal.
- Gain confidence and become more comfortable in front of decision makers. These informational interviews also give you the time and space to practice your pitch and the strategies you want to use while in a real interview.
How to attain an Informational Interview?
- Decision makers at firms are usually very busy and must segment their time efficiently throughout the day. So please do not just show up at a firm unannounced seeking an informational interview. Remember! They may not be hiring, so their priority at that point in time is most likely on hiring new talent. So when you send them the initial email, make sure there is a recognition of the value of their time and that it is understandable if they cannot conduct the informational interview until later. For example, end your email by stating the following ideas:
- I know you must be quite busy right now, and I value your time
- Considering this is our first time connecting, I understand if you will not be able to connect till later
- I understand if you cannot get back to me right now, but I would truly appreciate the opportunity to connect with you to better understand %COMPANY%
- Keep it simple and directly to the point! Let them know what it is you are looking for, and try to offer them something in return if possible.
- Leverage your existing network! Try to use your academic network via professors you have worked with, and are able to vouch for you. You must use LinkedIn as the professional networking tool it is! Try to create content and/or post content that connects with the goals of the firm you seek to target. Ideally, you would reach out to the decision maker ahead of time, so before you ask for the informational interview they have met you.
All of these factors must be considered before proceeding with an informational interview. We also recommend that you have your elevator pitch ready and crafted so that you can market yourself and your brand in around 2 minutes or less.
When considering your next career move, plan proactively and create Portfolios that include your best work. Consider looking into finding a mentor with Architect-US, and improving your Portfolios with our Portfolio Plans and Career Advice Program. We provide coaching and personalized mentorship, so you can have a professional and experienced take on your next steps in your career, as well as a great team to confide in.