Let’s get real for a minute. As it stands, the informational interview is pretty worthless to organizations. Sure, it’s a great tool for young adults on a career exploration journey, but what’s the real value to busy employers who give up their hard-pressed time to talk? The truth is, informational interviews might just be the secret to recruiting and hiring success.
To be certain that we are all on the same page, let’s define what informational interviews are. CareerOneStop defines informational interviewing as, “A meeting to learn about the real-life experience of someone working in a field or company that interests you. It’s not a job interview, so it’s important to keep focused on getting information, not a job offer.” Think of it less as a one-sided, obligatory function and more so as an opportunity to build strong relationships with potential employees.
What Are Informational Interviews?
Time is a valuable resource when it comes to hiring. It is unrealistic to suggest that hiring managers or employers dedicate their time to just anyone who sends an email requesting an informational interview. What an organization can do, however, is take control of the informational interview process. By sponsoring monthly or quarterly group events, the informational interview would become a part of the recruiting process that was offered to promising job seekers, but steered by the organization.
The event could be informal or structured. For instance, an organization could schedule an open-invite happy hour where potential candidates meet current employees and managers. Or, the organization could require candidates to submit resumes before officially being invited. Each company could choose what works best for them. As long as job seekers and the organization are able to get the information they need, they can begin to build a relationship.
The Benefits of Informational Interviews on Recruiting Process
If properly incorporated into the recruiting and hiring process, these conversations could provide amazing benefits to the employer. Before you think, “Great, something else I need to juggle while recruiting,” consider all the potential benefits of this approach to hiring:
It speeds up the hiring process
The length of the hiring process has steadily increased over the past few years -- a fact job seekers aren’t happy about. A study from Glassdoor found that the average hiring time grew from a reasonable 12.6 days in 2010 to 22.9 days in 2015. The main culprit is that job seekers are often subjected to additional screenings and other hoops to determine fit.
Understandably, organizations want to be sure a candidate is the right one before making a job offer. An informational interview would help eliminate job seekers who aren’t a good fit before they even start the hiring process.
Instead of waiting until the interview, job seekers would have the opportunity to get their questions answered about an organization and its opportunities sooner. They could determine whether it’s a good match for their needs before even submitting an application. The job seekers who do decide to pursue a job would have already self-selected for things like cultural fit and, if you choose to be transparent early on, salary range. In the end, you’d sort through fewer applications and be more confident about the ones you do receive.
It creates a new, pre-filtered candidate pool.
After completing an informational interview with a job seeker, organizations could keep in touch with promising talent. Then, when a position does become available, there is a pool of reliable candidates to reach out to.
And the best thing about those job seekers is that they are already interested in and educated about the company. The relationship that was created during the informational interview also makes the transition from candidate to new hire easier for everyone involved.
It bolsters your employer brand.
A 2015 CareerArc survey found that 75 percent of job seekers consider an organization’s employer brand before applying for a job. Yet, only 57 percent of employers say they have a strategy in place to manage that brand.
Informational interviews allow job seekers to interact with the employer brand in a more in-depth way than social media or company websites allow. They can talk with actual employees, have their individual questions answered, and assess fit in person. Even if the informational interview doesn’t result in employment, it creates a better candidate experience and improves the employer brand.
From the organization’s standpoint, informational interviews create an opportunity to share more of what candidates want to know and paint a more accurate picture for potential employees. For instance, if job seekers are consistently asking questions about the company’s core values, it’s clear that information isn’t readily available or is confusing to potential talent. The organization can then reevaluate how it is presenting itself online and in other sources.
It opens the discussion about available career paths.
A strong career path is a big draw for talent. In a 2015 LinkedIn report, 59 percent of employees said they had chosen their new job because it offered better career opportunities. Since the informational interview is a way for young professionals to explore their career options, it’s only natural that they also open the discussion about career paths.
By talking with job seekers about the future they could have before they’re even hired, they’ll know the organization cares about employees’ career goals. Candidates would also know what their options are one, five or even twenty years down the line. That way, they wouldn’t just be choosing a company to work for, but a company with which to build a long-term career.
A lot can be gained by incorporating the informational interview into the hiring process. Recruiting would be easier and candidates would be better informed. The result would be hiring employees who are a better fit for the company and more likely to stick around for the long-term.
In what other ways could informational interviews improve the hiring process? Share in the comments below!
Aaron Michel is the co-founder and CEO at PathSource, a career exploration solution helping students and job seekers make better career choices. To navigate your infinite career possibilities, connect with Aaron and the PathSource team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.