Sunday, January 16, 2011

Informational Interviews versus Job Interviews

Author: Bob Priddy

I know you’ve heard this before, most of the best jobs are never advertised and a solid networking strategy is the best process for physicians to learn about those best jobs – and it’s true. However, what do you do when your networking lands you an interview for a job you don’t know if you really want. It happens.

Sound networking strategies are built around a set of expectations. You don’t expect the first person you speak with to direct you to a job. Networking is an escalating process where at each level you move closer to people more knowledgeable of your objectives and therefore more likely to introduce you to someone who understands you clearly and can help you do exactly what you with to do.

However, it’s not unusual while debriefing a client following a first or second tier networking meeting to be told, “She said this person is looking for someone with my expertise and they may offer me a job. I don’t think I want to work there. What am I supposed to do.”

You’re supposed to see this opportunity, and it is a great opportunity, as an informational interview, not a job interview. What’s the difference? It’s a matter of who is interviewing whom. In a job interview, the primary questioner is the person with whom you’re meeting. In an informational interview, the primary questioner is you. Further, your objective of an informational interview differs from a job interview. You want to leave a positive impression. You’d prefer not to be offered the job – although your opinion may change during or after the interview, and you want to have the opportunity to add this person to your network.

A job interview and an informational interview will likely begin the same. The person you’re meeting will begin by saying, “Tell me about yourself.” You know the answer to this question and it allows you to frame the discussion going forward. The answer is your stump speech: who I am, what I’ve done, what I want to do, and how you can help me, with the reserve category of, how I can help you.

“What you want to do” should have some connection to this company, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be there. And, what you want to do should then prompt the interviewer’s next question or statement: either “tell me more about ….that,” or “Let me tell you about us,” thereby making the link.

If “tell me more about…,” you have the opportunity to talk about what you’ve done, listing your core competencies with appropriate examples, and state your vision, the “how I can help you,” of your stump speech. However, the “you” is a more general industry, job function or mission, not specifically this company. That’s an important distinction because it directs the conversation away from their specific opportunity and towards your goals.

If, “let me tell you about us,” then listen attentively, take notes and when she finishes, return to items that match your core competencies and ask for more information, such as, “how does the industry generally address this problem/opportunity. What kinds of people are seen as essential to be successful, in this area.”

Follow up most of your interviewer’s statements with questions that will help you gain better information about the industry. When possible, indicate that you have skills and qualities the person notes as essential or desirable, and reference your statements with brief examples, such as, “I have encountered that situation many times, and one thing I’ve done that’s been particularly positive is, let me give you an example…”

If you’ve effectively redirected questions towards the industry as opposed to the job, most good interviewers will see you as knowledgeable and inquisitive, but not as someone who wants this job. After all, you said that in the beginning, with your stump speech. At best, you’ve added someone to your network and possibly gained a referral to another person or two. At worst, you’ve tested your interviewing skills.

For more information about interviewing, developing your stump speech or resume, contact Robert Priddy at third_Evolution, or 720-339-3585.

About the author:

Since 2002, Bob Priddy has coached, counseled and advised more than 900 physicians seeking non-clinical career transitions or restructured clinical practices; and he is President of third_Evolution, Non Clinical Careers for Physicians. Prior to third_Evolution, he served in physician practice management and consulting roles on both a local and national level, in senior health system administrative and operational positions with four health systems in the East and Midwest, as well as in senior administrative, marketing and product management positions with leading healthcare IT and marketing firms. Bob is an entrepreneur who knows Physicians, healthcare, and nonclinical industries. His coaching and advising approach is outcomes-based centered on the concepts of Focus, knowing what you want to do; Package, having the right materials to represent your career search or your new business venture; and Process, developing and implementing a logical strategy for your success. Read about him here.

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