Informational Interview (Part 2): How to Interview Professionally? 

Think about it: you are putting yourself “face-to-face” with someone in the same career field of interest as you. This person might have the power to hire you, or at least put you in touch with someone in the company with the authority to do so. Your ability to impress them with your qualifications and professionalism is key that will grant you a job offer. Keen to master this ability? Make sure you understand the right way to do an informational interview.

This article is a part of our previous Informational Interview Tips: Why and who to interview.  

How to do an informational interview 

Informational interviews can be scheduled by email, letter or a phone call. It can also be scheduled in person, when the opportunity presents itself. When contacting a professional about an informational interview, you should be concise and professional. The following can serve as a guide in making the contact:

  • Briefly introduce yourself. “My name is (insert name). I’m an MBA candidate at Clarkson University, and I’ve been conducting a great deal of research about marketing careers. You’re working in a career that, based on my research, I’ve chosen to explore further.”  
  • State why you are contacting them. “A professor of mine, (insert name), thought you’d be a great person to talk to and he/she strongly encouraged me to reach out to you.” 
  • Touch briefly upon your interest in this field. “I’ve done some serious research and reflection on the things I like to do, and those things that I do well. Based on this, as well as on some initial career exploration, this career intrigues me. But I could really benefit from information, advice and suggestions from somebody like you to help clarify my career goals.”  
  • Ask for action. “I would welcome the opportunity to conduct an informational interview to find out more about what you do. I would only need about 20 to 30 minutes of your time, and am willing to schedule this at your convenience. When would be a good time for you?”  
  • Close the conversation. “So we’ll be meeting on (insert day and time) at (insert location). Thanks so much for your time and consideration.” 
  • Remember to exchange contact information, just in case you need to reach one another in an emergency.

Remember, just like a job interview, preparation is absolutely essential. To adequately prepare, consider the following:  

  • Research the company or organization. At a minimum, go to their website and company profile on LinkedIn. Request a copy of their most recent annual report and any other relevant company literature. 
  • Research the professional. Bios on the company website and LinkedIn profiles can be great sources of information. Also, “Google” the professional’s name on the Internet to see what other information you can find out about them.  
  • Prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask during the interview. 
  • Plan your attire and “dress for success.” Dress for the informational interview as you would for a job interview. 
  • Pack emergency-repair items, such as a small sewing kit, spot-remover wipes, tissues, comb and brush, hairspray, makeup for touch ups, breath mints and an umbrella in case you need it.  
  • Make sure you have the contact information of the person you’re interviewing – including name, title, phone number and email address. 
  • Know who you’re interviewing and how to contact them in case of an emergency.  
  • Print two or more copies of your professional and critiqued resume on a heavier stock resume paper. You want to have one for yourself and one for the person you’re interviewing. Although this is not a job interview, the informational interview is a great venue for a professional to provide feedback about your qualifications. 
  • Have a professional padfolio (with a fresh pad of paper) and several pens for taking notes. Remember, you are a “reporter” seeking relevant information and you want to capture it accurately.  
  • Take a practice run to the location of the interview. Know how to get there and how long it takes, and be familiar with alternate routes in case of accidents or detours. Get a good night’s sleep the night before the interview. It will help you be at your best.  Remember the power of your non-verbal cues, including eye contact, posture, and nervous habits. 

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Does Success Always Mean Money?

Popular saying says, “Money is the root of all evil – and yet, it can also become the source of man to be powerful.” 

Earlier in history, people had a barter system to trade. They would barter their possessions such as grain, gold, meat, etc in exchange to other goods with equal value. When  money was invented around 700 B.C., people began to use it for mutual adjustment rather than sharing possessions with each other. Money is then adopted as a better system for trading, thus humans developed a process to measure the worth of something with money. Until today, money is part of human’s means to survive in life.

The concept of more or less

Since money is one of the important measurements for a man to live, many people believe that having more money equals being more successful. When people have more money, they can buy more possessions  – such that they will be regarded as “rich”. On the other hand, having less money would be regarded as poor, therefore being poor means having an unsuccessful life. In nature, humans develop the concept of “more and less” because our brain likes to decide and judge things without working much effort. In other words, people would easily judge whether someone is successful or not by looking at how much “materials” (money) one possesses. 

See also: Which One is More Important: Degree Certificate or Skill Certificate? 

Money + success = ? 

After understanding the concept of more and less, you should now understand why money is such an important part of a man regarded as a success. Yet, to some extent, this is just the surface of the concept. There is a simple detail that people often miss here which can be broken down into two: 

  • You can still be successful and not have the money.
  • You can have the money and still be not successful.

How? You might ask. 

To illustrate, a man works tirelessly for a multi-national company and he earns enough money to be called as successful by society. Little did people know, this man is often exhausted, gets burnout, and is simply not that happy as he gets little time for himself. 

Meanwhile, there is another man working at a local school. He earns enough to feed his family, but he loves his job and loves teaching his students. Whenever he goes home and finds that his son comes running from the inside to hug him, he feels happy and complete.

From the illustrations above, now you understand the concept of happiness. Happiness is not measured by numbers, by money. Happiness is the basic need, core element that helps human beings feel fulfilled with life. When you feel satisfied and happy, you will perceive your life as a success. 

The conclusion by far is that money gives you power but it might not result in a happy life which is basic human’s needs. 

The psychology behind money and happiness 

According to Christopher Peterson at Psychology Today, money and happiness are related to each other. When you have a lot of money and you spend it in a way that keeps you fulfilled, having more money means having a happier life. Peterson also mentioned that money does bring happiness if it is spent wisely and on someone else. 

To illustrate what Peterson meant, imagine you have a bunch of dollars that could be spent on anything you want. Your life becomes much more comfortable and you can provide more for your family because you do not need to worry about your finances. This feeling, psychologists said, is a feeling of pleasures and comforts. Pleasures and comforts are two things that keep you happy, for a period of time. They are temporary things. The same goes to when you spend the money to help those in need. 

The conclusion is that money is not the root of evil and it does give happiness if spent wisely. However, as mentioned, money is only temporary happiness. If you want to be a successful person by your own definition, what you need to seek is true happiness. A life that makes you full and this kind of happiness cannot be measured by anything. That’s the beauty of it – happiness is the true wealth. 

 So, which one will you choose? Living to fit in society or trying to please your own self?

Read also: 10 Hidden Perks Job Seekers Should Ask Their Recruiters 

6 Reasons Why Recruiters Avoid Hiring Candidates with Employment Gap 

Are you a dedicated job seeker but have an employment gap in your resume? Here’s what you need to know.

Job candidates with years of employment gap are often perceived as an inadequate candidate by recruiters. Difficulty of job placement is cited to be the number one reason why recruiters avoid employment gaps in resumes. Another reason is that individuals who work freelance or are out of work to pursue their own ventures are often seen as having a lack of responsibility. Here are some other reasons why employers avoid hiring candidates with years of employment gap in the resume. 

  • More training – Recruiters often avoid hiring a person with a gap in resume for a senior-level position because they might require training which could add more work for HR and teams. Higher position needs professionals to do the job, so talents with a gap might have a lower chance of getting hired here. 
  • Employment gap means a hard time to verify employment background and it will be an extra task for a hiring manager. 
  • Recruiters often perceive that when you are out of work, your skills might not be good enough. 
  • If you quit the job to build your own business and fail, a recruiter might think that you are not good enough on your own and it could be a weak point because an organisation would prefer hiring a reliable person. 
  • Hiring qualified talents with a gap in their resume is more costly than hiring freshers. Fresh graduates can be paid less because they have no work experience, while qualified individuals with gaps might demand higher pay.  
  • Recruiters often fear low performance, instability, or unreliability at work if they hire someone with years of an employment gap. 

See also: What To Expect during a Job Interview?

Don’t be discouraged just yet – how to handle employment gap 

There is a way for job seekers to get employed even when they stop working for years. One way to hide employment gaps without lying is to use a Functional Resume. Concentrate on your skills and accomplishments and downplay when and where you did them. However, there are times when employers or headhunters ask you for a chronological resume or a separate work history. If this is the case, jump to trick number two. 

If employers or recruiters ask for work history, the chance for you to showcase your skills on paper might be low. But you can always showcase it in realtime. Thus, make sure you complete a project or certification before applying for the new job. This will help sell your skills again after years of no career advancement in the workplace. But remember, with those years of gap, applying for senior-level might be tricky even when you have completed some of certifications. It will be wiser to apply at a lower level and scale through time when you are employed. 

Once you have addressed the gap and explained what you did during that time but the conversation continues in a direction you are not comfortable with, you have the option of saying, “I’d prefer not to go into more detail. I am very interested in sharing details of my work experience, however.” From there, you can supply another anecdote from your work history that makes you qualified for the position. 

If the conversation continues to make you feel uncomfortable, you might want to consider ending the interview by saying, “I’m not comfortable with where our conversation is headed so this might not be the right fit. Thank you for your time.” This will not only show that you appreciate recruiter’s opportunity given to you for an interview but also show that you respect both of your time and recruiter’s. 

Ending a job interview unilaterally might decrease your chance to be hired. But it is better than explaining yourself in a way that the recruiter could not understand. If you are looking for a job that fits you best, check here and you might find a better employment opportunity than the one you are applying for now. 

Read also: 5 Things Recruiters Know that Job Seekers Don’t 

What To Expect during a Job Interview? 

If it is your first time to come to a job interview, it is normal if you think that interview is nerve-wracking. In such a case, knowing a few best practices can calm your nerves and keep you sharp. The first step is getting familiar with types of questions you’ll be asked, which include:

  • Background questions – These questions help hiring managers get an overview of your experience, goals and why you’re interested in the company. 
  • Behavioural questions – These are designed to uncover your past “behaviours” in different work situations. These questions also help employers decide whether you will fit company culture. 
  • Situational questions – Your answers to these questions should demonstrate your ability to overcome challenging workplace scenarios. 

See also: The Power of Informational Interviews

It will be all about you.

Besides the interview questions above, you can expect that a job interview will be all about you – as a job seeker. Therefore, set aside shyness or reticence and prepare to explain yourself thoroughly. First impressions always count, especially on particular occasions like job interviews. Practice and school yourself on what to do when employers ask illegal questions, such as queries about your marital status, children, or health issues. Understanding what you should disclose and what should be kept as secret will leave a good impression to recruiters. 

If you have an employment gap, explain it.

It is always a good policy to be honest about employment gaps, especially if it is lengthy. Having an employment gap will not decrease your employment chance if you know how to communicate it. Thus, be honest on why you take the gap, is it because you are working to find a new job, volunteering, becoming a parent or caregiver, or travelling? These reasons might be viewed in your favour. When explaining this, remember to emphasise the skills you’ve gained during employment gaps that will put value to the company if they hire you.

Be ready to discuss salary. 

When it comes to salary discussion, don’t disclose exactly what you expected. What you need to do is to prepare yourself by knowing what you are worth based on your qualifications and your salary history. You can also consult authoritative sources, such as Payscale. Once again, don’t feel it is your role to bring up specific numbers, but if you are asked, be prepared with salary ranges, based on your research. 

You are also required to ask questions. 

As the interview is winding up, the hiring manager might turn the table and ask if you have questions for them. When the time comes, make sure you take the chance to dig the company deeper, such as understanding the work hours, company culture, etc. Check here to know what questions you should ask. Nonetheless, it can be totally okay to finish with a non-question grace note, such as expressing that you’ve enjoyed the discussion and look forward to the next step in the hiring process. 

Read also: 3 Reasons Why Showcasing Your Personality during Job Interview is Essential

5 Things Recruiters Know that Job Seekers Don’t 

Do you often find that recruiters and hiring managers are intimidating? Don’t worry, they are not. They simply want to give you the best hiring experience in their own way. What you should pay more attention to is the secret behind their actions, because there are certain things that hiring managers do not want to reveal in front of their candidates. According to Dandan Zhu, Founder and CEO at DG Recruit, here are a few things recruiters and hiring managers know that job seekers don’t. 

#1 – All basic qualifications having been met 

“The smartest people do not actually end up succeeding the most in real life, while the dumbest people also have just as good as a chance to survive, if not thrive.” 

It means that B or C level students might be as good as A+ students in real life.  In other words, when it comes to the workplace, this means that the most talented and technically savvy engineer doesn’t always become the CTO. Most of the time, it is usually the politically admired and personally connected talent who wins and progresses into the C-suite. Basic qualifications are important to be considered as a feasible candidate, but success is dedicated more by one’s ability to influence, actively listen and respond appropriately, level of social etiquette, and general accentedness by their peers and superiors than one’s technical scores. 

See also: Job vs. Career: Life-long Adventure after Graduation

#2 – HR people are not that important in the hiring hierarchy 

“As you become a serious professional, you can utilise LinkedIn to directly approach hiring managers.” 

Most graduates might think that HR people deserve the utmost respect as they were the gateway to their future career prospects. Yet, Zhu emphasised that it is the hiring manager that makes the utmost decision, while HR is the service and administrative function in the process. Hiring manager dictates everything, including who to interview, what price to pay them, who to hire, and which headhunters to utilise. 

#3 – Job applicants can negotiate and leverage other offers to great effect 

“In today’s world, it is all about the etiquette and manner in which you communicate.” 

As a job applicant, you might be scared of upsetting prospective employers about disclosing where else you are going for job interviews and how much money you actually want. Yet, if a high-demand labour market where the supply of jobs outstrips candidates available, you actually hold a lot more power than employers do. 

Therefore, it is vital for you to research your niche and whether the position you are applying for is currently in the high demand labour market or not. Only then, you know your worth to negotiate and be transparent about offers. If handled appropriately, this will increase employers’ desire for you, not penalise you for looking greedy or not interested. Communication is the mother of all success when it comes to negotiation, thus master it. 

#4 – Interview your interviewers harder 

“Don’t be scared to say what’s on your mind. If something important to you does not align with your future employer, things won’t work out anyways, so it is better to know before you take the job to begin with.” 

Commonly, candidates are so scared of losing job offers or being looked at as needy or demanding so they don’t actually say what’s on their mind. This, however, could hurt your success on the job even if you manage to get a great salary and offer. Chances are, you probably agreed to something that you did not fully understand or align with.

That’s why it’s your prerogative to be a strong communicator. Get the answers you truly need during interviews by asking tough questions that are detailed and specific. This is where you’ll be spending your next few years; you better be aggressive in how you get it out!

#5 – Interview even if you don’t need to 

“Go out and interview even if you don’t need to.” 

Due to loyalty, fear, laziness, and/or arrogance, most candidates refuse to proactively learn about what opportunities are available. Don’t be like these most candidates. No matter if you need to look or not, once you hit a certain amount of experience in your role, it is time to take your head out of the sand and start interviewing, even if just for your own education. 

Read also: What to Do When You Hear Nothing from a Job Application?

Job vs. Career: Life-long Adventure after Graduation 

Congratulations on your graduation! So you have finished college, earned a degree, and now it is time to practice what you have learnt at school in the world of working. Whether you are dabbling with ideas or searching furiously for that first big gig, there are small steps you can take to ensure your first job works in lock-step with your long-term career goals.

What is a job and what is a career? 

A job and a career are usually used in the same context but serve different functions. Both are focused on how an individual earns money, but there are some differences you might never realise. 

See also: How to Answer Behavioural Questions

A job – is short-term oriented and tends to focus on earning money. 

Jobs have a small impact on future resumes because they aren’t typically related to what an individual career is or will be. Jobs also offer less networking opportunities because coworkers often won’t be continuing on the same field in the future career. In addition, most jobs consist of hourly wages, are more short-term, and focus on getting a task done. 

A career – is a series of related employment in one field that provides experience for your future and helps you earn better paychecks and living status. 

Career is all about building up skills through various employment opportunities, strengthening ability to move on to higher paying or more prestigious jobs. Careers provide a foundation of experiences that help fuel professional life for many years. In addition, careers are more long-term focused on learning, gaining experiences, building connections, and putting yourself in the right position for promotions and raises.

Creating professional life with purpose 

As a graduate, you might now look for an opportunity that can both help you earn money and earn dignity through skill advancement. If this is exactly what you are pursuing, ensuring that your job and career goals are aligned is important. Here are three tricks you can use. 

  • Overcome pressure – At times, you might feel immense pressure. It is natural, but don’t let it stop you. Work hard, learn and develop a lasting relationship and soon enough the pressure will pass. 
  • Be proactive - Employees, especially millennials, often get bored easily but do nothing about it. If you are among these people, make sure to turn your boredom into opportunity by getting proactive. Get creative and seek solutions. Young professionals who solve problems move up faster. 
  • Set simple goals – Workplace can be wonderful, yet confusing at the same time due to tight deadlines, ungrateful bosses, etc. Shadow talented co-workers. Gain control by getting simple goals. Make a list of skills you want to learn and get senior professionals around you to weigh in. Keep a checklist and hold yourself accountable. 

Read also: What to Do When You Hear Nothing from a Job Application? 

How to Answer Behavioural Questions

Employers want to know that the candidates they hire will fit in both company culture and the position applied. In the job interview, hiring managers need to ensure that candidates have the qualities they are seeking for, therefore they often ask behavioural questions to uncover it.

Behavioural interview questions are questions that focus on how a job candidate has handled different work situations in the past to reveal their personality, abilities, and skills. Interviewees could use their work experience, volunteer positions, or sports experiences to answer behavioural questions. 

See also: 6 Phrases to AVOID When Applying for Job and Interview

Simplify with the S.T.A.R Approach

STAR is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Results. This interview technique offers a straightforward format which job seekers can use to answer behavioural interview questions. This technique requires interviewees to provide a real-life example of how they handle a certain kind of situation at work in the past. 

Behavioural questions usually are easy to recognise as they often have telltale openings like: 

  • Have you ever encountered a situation that makes you grumpy? How do you handle the situation? 
  • Describe your most daunting challenge and how you handle the situation?
  • Talk about a mistake you made. What happened and how did you handle it? 
  • Please describe a scenario in which you were under pressure. What was going on and how did you respond? 
  • Tell me about your proudest accomplishment. 

In some cases, recruiters can provide a situation in which interviewees have to answer with a real-life example based on their past experiences. 

Preparation checklist 

When answering a behavioural question, interviewees should be able to identify the most interesting event, hence could grab the attention of the interviewer. However, if interviewees do not have any work event related to the question, they can pick the most relevant ones from personal experiences. When doing so, make sure to tell a recruiter that the event happened not in the workplace but instead it is based on the personal experience. 

Here are tips to pick the best event and how you can relate it to the question: 

  • Categorise your experiences into successes, challenges, leadership moments, teamwork skills, and problem-solving situations. 
  • Practice your answer out loud before the interview session and plot the answer neatly. 
  • Get comfortable with your strengths and weaknesses because interviewers might ask more questions regarding your strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Always be honest. 

“It is all about lessons learned. Your answer to behavioural questions should demonstrate how you tackled and solved a problem. And of course, what you learned from this situation.” - Jodi Glickman 

Read also: 3 Reasons Why Showcasing Your Personality during Job Interview is Essential

3 Reasons Why Showcasing Your Personality during Job Interview is Essential

Being a suitable job candidate for a specific position in a company requires more than a well-written CV. While having confidence could be one of the biggest advantages to being a candidate of choice, it might not be enough to secure a job offer. Job seekers must go beyond just well-written resumes by showcasing their personality.

See also: 4 Tips to Find a Job that Fits and Suits You

According to Heckman et al., personality has been a scientifically-proven predictor of job performance and assessing a candidate’s behavioural tendencies in a work environment. This allows recruiters to determine whether a candidate will be a top performer and if he/she will fit the culture of the company. Recruiter Experts cited there are three more advantages for job seekers when showcasing their personality during an interview: 

1- Your personality is a success indicator 

Personality is the driving force behind how one thinks, feels, acts, adapts and works. The stories you share in a job interview regarding past experiences can be an indicator of how you will deal with adversity and opportunity. Potential employers want a glimpse into your future successes and failures. Often, the simplest indicator is your personality. 

2- Skills can be taught, personality cannot 

More and more companies are realising that skills and knowledge can be gained on the job. However, personality is hardwired. If you come to the table with a personality that matches with a company’s culture, other technical skills can be learned over time. 

3- Culture is king 

Your personality can indicate that you will build good culture in a company which will create a healthy place to work, not only for yourself but also for others. 

Using insights from personality assessments and your past experiences to really understand what an ideal environment looks like will lead you to the right career path. Remember, it needs to be a fit on both sides. There is no use in denying your personality. 

Read also: 10 Suitable Jobs for YOU Who are Bad Communicators

Dos & Don'ts when Asking Questions to Recruiter

If you, as a candidate, are enthusiastic during an interview, the chance of getting hired is higher. An interview session is a place where you can figure out whether the job and workplace culture is a fit for you. Therefore, don’t hesitate to ask the questions you prepare beforehand to the interviewer.

See also: 6 Phrases to AVOID When Applying for Job and Interview

Here are the dos and don’ts that will help you get the most out of every question you ask: 

DO

  • Ask your most pressing questions first. These could be about the culture, goals of your future team or how performance will be evaluated.
  • Ask probing questions. Consider asking which personality traits are most common among the most successful employees, or what employees enjoy most about working there. 
  • Ask interviewers about their own career paths. For example, ask them how they decided to go into their field, or what steps they took within the company to attain their current position.
  • Ask about challenges. What will make this job difficult? What will you need to overcome?
  • Ask for their contact information and whether you can connect with them for further information.

DON’T

  • Don’t ask questions to sound smart. For example, interrupting the recruiter before he/she finishes their questions, just because you know the better option or better solution to the question asked. 
  • Don’t ask about something you could find online. This might make the recruiter think that you haven’t done your homework well. Remember that searching and researching information about the company before an interview is vital to your interview success. 
  • Don’t be unprofessional. You should limit yourself when asking questions even when the recruiter says that you can ask anything, NEVER ask about personal life, such as marital status, his/her personal salary, etc. 
  • Don’t push. If the hiring manager won’t answer your question, it’s best to leave it alone.

Read also: How to Discuss a Gap Year in an Interview

5 Types of People to Include in Your LIFE Circle

Networking has always been the top ingredient of success. In many cases, having a network will help in your job search, expand your knowledge, and improve your expertise. Yet, networking is not all about growing your list of contacts. You cannot just pick random individuals, ask their email or phone number and add them to your contact list, then contact them when you need help. More than that, networking is all about knowing someone at a deeper level that could help improve yourself as an individual.

With that in mind, it is essential to be selective when making new connections. Why? Because getting in a wrong networking circle could hamper your life. Meanwhile, getting yourself surrounded by the right individuals can give you a boost as you will get advice and feedback from a hand-picked group of strategic advisors who truly tip the scales in your favour. 

See also: 4 Tips to Find a Job that Fits and Suits You

So, who should be in your circle? Here are five types of people to include. 

The advocate 

The advocate individuals know you on a personal level, acts as a trusted sounding board, and likely a close friend or family member. When you ask a question such as “how can my first few jobs line up with my personal values?” to your advocate circle, they can help you by giving true answers because they know your ins and outs. 

The strategic “In” 

The strategic “In” is more like a connection of the outside. They are well-connected individuals, demonstrate a willingness to make connections on your behalf, and likely alumni, past internship advisors, or your professors. When you ask your strategic “In” circle about a new job in X company, they will happily connect you with the current employees of C-suites. 

The subject matter expert 

As the name suggests, subject matter expert networks are those who can offer you superior insight on a specific industry, give you an unbiased opinion, likely an alumni contact, professors, or family members. This circle can widen your skills and knowledge about the outside worlds, especially the professional ones. In addition, they can give you advice on how to develop yourself and always push you to grow. Usually, these people are those who will make you uncomfortable in your comfort zone. 

The financial guru 

We know that money is one of the most powerful weapons in today’s industry and being financially illiterate can usher you to more difficulties, such as debt, loan, credit, etc. That is one of the reasons why many employees demand financial programs within their organisations. In this case, you should find one network who can be a financial guru. This network is usually those who live to observe stocks and might work around numbers daily. They can be anyone, like your family member, advocates, friends, or project buddy. 

The social butterfly 

Last but not least, the social butterfly individual is someone who can encourage you to connect with others. They are very person-centred and love being the centre of attention. Having one or two social butterflies around will help you get out of your comfort zone and can teach you how to network better. This is especially good for a very introverted or shy individual. 

Read also: 10 Suitable Jobs for YOU Who are Bad Communicators