I really hate to mention "informational interviews" during military transition to veterans. I can see you think this sounds so fake. So forced. So freaking awkward. So not military.
Yet, what we call an informational interview is a perfectly normal, accepted, powerful part of the job hunt process for veterans.
After all, an informational interview is really just a conversation you have during a job hunt, usually with someone who is happy to talk to you. You ask questions. They give answers. You make sense of what they say. You move forward.
That sounds like normal military life to me (except maybe the part where people are happy to talk to you all the time.)
The Right Kind of Questions
The key for military job hunters is to ask the right kind of questions during an informational interview. Anything you can Google, you should not be asking in this kind of conversation -- like what jobs are available at the company and what the company does.
Find the complete directions for reaching out for informational interviews in our FREE master class Veteran Employers You Don't Already Know.
To help you out, I put together this list of perfect informational interview questions.
- Tell me about your transition?
- What do you know now that you wish you had known then?
- Did you use any programs like Hiring Our Heroes or SkillBridge? What were the results?
- How long after your separation/retirement ceremony did you start your first post-military job?
- What was your first job title?
- I've been doing some research about salary. In our area, it looks like the salary range is between x and y. Is that accurate? Or are you seeing a different number?
- I'm trying to figure out what level I should be looking at in your company. From the job descriptions, it sounds like I should be looking at the manager level. Or do I qualify for senior management? Or am I looking for something else?
NOTE: If you ask, "What level should I apply to?" or, "What should I do with my experience?" it shows you have not done the expected work. It is not fair to ask your contact to do the big thinking for you. It is fair to have thought up two or three options and get their feedback.
The Magic Question
As you get to the end of the conversation, be sure to ask the Magic Question: Who else do you think I should talk to?
This question almost always moves your job hunt a little further forward. When asking friends, this question often sparks the memory of a mutual acquaintance you already know, but have not thought of as someone to talk to about transition.
When you ask this question of mentors and former bosses, this question usually leads to a person you do not know or do not know well who may have openings coming up.
Be sure to ask the follow-up question: Could you send an introductory email between us? This is the standard way other people reach into their own network for you.
The Zinger Question
If you are really sensible and realistic about your job hunt, you recognize that there is no job available in that company months before you get out. Nor are you available to take it.
So you ask the Zinger to close the conversation: Would it be OK if I circle back around with you after I get out?
Invariably, people say yes. Of course, they say yes. This is you we are talking about. Yet the you who is asking the question at this stage is a lot more confident than the you who will be circling back around after separation or retirement. If you get this permission to call again ahead of time, it will make the job hunt a lot easier.
Expect that you will be the one asking most of the questions during an informational interview, but they will ask questions, too. Prepare answers for these questions:
- What kind of job are you looking for?
- Why don't you look at our company website and tell me what is interesting to you? (They are always surprised and pleased to find you did this already in preparation for their question.)
- What can I do to help you?
Don't ask them to look at your resume. No one wants to look at your resume. Instead, this is the time to ask the Magic Question and the Zinger.
Your first three informational interviews are almost guaranteed to feel strange to you. That is OK. My clients tell me all the time that after the first three informational interviews, things get better. Not only do they feel normal, but they actually make you feel better about your prospects.
Best of all, these informational interviews are often what eventually leads you to the civilian job you wanted all along -- which is exactly what I want for you, most of all.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website, SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.
Learn More About the Veteran Employment Project
To get more tips on how to make a successful military transition, sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.