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“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”
– Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), American author
Speaking skills – in particular interview skills – matter.
Job interviews – a perennial topic on this blog – are often stressful, especially for English language learners. A broad consensus exists among adult educators, especially ESL instructors, that we should take every possible opportunity to focus on job interview skills in our English classes. In fact, most quality Business English and VESL (Vocational English as a Second Language) programs provide extensive training and practice in both short and long job interviews. Videotaping practice interviews, for instance, remains an invaluable tool.
Yet ESL teachers can also help ESL/EFL students conduct research for possible jobs with informational interviews. A common practice in the United States, informational interviews allow job seekers to meet working professionals in their field, collect detailed information on working lives, and expand their network of valuable contacts. Ranging in topic from the biographic to industry trends, these 20-30 minute interviews offer surprising insights into the typical work experiences and best workplace practices. Sometimes they can even lead to an internship or job offer.
A Personal Testimonial
From my perspective, adding informational interviews to Business English classes and VESL programs seems extraordinarily sensible. Practical and popular, this multidimensional assignment consistently engages students and provides surprising insights in a university setting. I’ve been requiring informational interviews for several years in my university courses for both native and non-native English speakers. Students consistently rate the informational interview highest among the course assignments – and often praise it on course evaluations.
More About Informational Interviews on the Web
By Carole Martin, Monster Contributing Writer
Short, introductory tips on conducting informational interviews.
“Informational interviewing is a largely overlooked process, because it is misunderstood. In an informational interview, you are seeking leads and information regarding an industry, a career path or an employer by talking to people you know or who have been referred to you.”
By David G. Jensen (March 20, 2009)
This article explains how to get in the right mindset to approach an informational interview and discusses the benefits of preparing to use this tool correctly.
“…the informational interview is very much a networking tool, perhaps the ultimate networking tool.”
How to Land and Ace an Informational Interview
By Jacquelyn Smith (December 11, 2013)
In-depth information on the differences between an informational interview and a job interview, and how to secure and conduct successful informational interviews.
“…One of the most valuable tools—one that offers job seekers both networking opportunities and occupational information—is the informational interview.”
By Lindsey Pollak (June 16, 2011)
This article gives 8 actions for one to have a successful informational interview and to maintain a professional relationship afterward.
“If someone impresses me, I’ll go out of my way to help that person find a job or connect them with other people I know.”
By Jennifer Winter
Helpful advice on how to make informational interviews, which can feel like uncharted territory to many job-seekers, run smoothly.
“Either way, if you haven’t done them before, informational interviews can be one of the more awkward aspects of your job search. But, as the saying goes, information is power—and informational interviews can be crucial to helping you become well-informed about the industry or company you’re considering joining.”
By Jenny Yerrick Martin (October 29, 2014)
Additional advice from a professional who has given many informational interviews.
“What is it that makes ‘everything go right’ from my point of view? How can you up your chances that I will be sending you back out of my office with solid tips for improving your resume and promising leads for a next job?”
By Mac Prichard (March 14, 2013)
“Don’ts” for informational interviewing that build upon other articles in this list. It also has links to other useful articles relevant to informational interviewing.
“Informational interviews are one of the best ways to clarify career goals, grow a professional network and uncover unadvertised jobs. Whether you schedule a handful of these meetings or dozens, here are 10 things you don’t want to do in an informational interview.”
USC Marshall undergraduate student services
Concise yet effective overview of an informational interview and how to achieve success.
“Informational interviews are a great opportunity to utilize the Trojan Network and broaden your network of professional contacts.”
By John Youshaei (October 20, 2014)
This isn’t an informational interview article, but Tracy found it during our search. It includes some really fantastic tips from employees in top companies, and offers new insight beyond most job interview advice I’ve come across.
Have you added informational interviews to your advanced ESL class yet? Why or why not?