January 13 2017

Forbes: Mastering The Informational Interview

Thought Leadership, David Schwab, Forbes, Media, HR, First Call

Octagon First Call's David Schwab continued his regular contributions to Forbes with this piece full of fantastic advice for students and young professionals looking to get more out of informational interviews.

The informational interview.

Three words that make executives squirm every time they hear or read them.

Without a direct relationship between interviewer and interviewee, it’s likely that executives are hoping to check a box and just get through the conversation. But don’t forget, every executive was once that person sitting on the other side of the table.

As a regular on the interviewer side, I wanted to share tips geared toward young professionals and students with one goal: to help make you a more viable candidate.

Know how to differentiate yourself. There may be hundreds of candidates out there going after the same job that you want. It is imperative to set yourself apart. I ask everyone I interview to tell me something about themselves that’s not on their resume – and I expect it to be straightforward and substantive.  Please avoid saying you love a certain field or discipline, instead, tell me what your skill is, and tell me what you can solve and what you might create. For those coming straight out of school, no one expects you to have 10 years of experience, but we still want to know how you can help our business and we want to see how you communicate your talents.

Thinking on our feet is one of the most important skills a professional can have. I’ve always thought Improv is both a class and a skill, and the ability to pivot based on the question or situation shows that a candidate has the aptitude and confidence to succeed in a number of professions. So even if you are out of school or in an entry level job, taking an improv class at the local theater or university still has merit.

Social media is the best interview tool ever, if you use it wisely.Twitter and LinkedIn are excellent places to build a conversation or share industry-relevant news. Many young millennials and Gen Z use Snapchat and Instagram for fun, but as that generation becomes more serious about careers, they are best served to get on Twitter and build a profile for future employers and recruiters (because that is where the professional workplace lives). If you have an expertise or love that is visual in nature, build an Instagram account or display your portfolio via Pinterest. If you have great content, a following will come. This type of activity helps to differentiate you as a candidate and can help propel you onto an employers’ shortlist. And don’t just use Linkedin as a digital resume, the platform provides excellent tools to organize and show off your work and tangible results and impact. Where you volunteer and spend your time matters to people too.

If you’re starting to interview, make sure your social media platforms are updated and that your feeds are appropriate for an employer to see. Many will look at a candidate’s social media as a gauge of social know-how, and as an indicator of how that candidate would handle themselves in professional situations.

Come to an interview prepared to talk about social media. I always ask people who, inside my agency and out, they follow on social media. It gives me a quick indication of their commitment and marketplace knowledge. This is another place where improv skills come in handy.