Strategies to Help Clients with Introductions and Informal Interviews
By Ruth Pankratz
Introductions can fail when a client has a self-serving request. A structured informal interview provides an opportunity to investigate a career or an organization without a selfish approach because the focus is on learning. In the past, colleague introductions were a way to connect one person, who needed something, to another person with an expectation that the meeting would provide a solution. Today, introductions allow two people to learn from each other without an agenda to fulfill an aspiration.
Thoughtful introductions can lead to conversations, network building, and lasting relationships. In a world filled with instant gratification, one way to help a client is by providing services that encourage slower, more genuine ways to interact with professionals while setting realistic expectations. Guiding clients in the following ways may increase client introduction success while enhancing the provider’s services.
1. Offer a service making connections between a client and a professional from the career service provider’s network.
Many career service providers cultivate extensive networks that include professionals working in a particular job or for a specific organization. Many clients do not have access to professional resources in particular job areas or at specific organizations. While social media platforms have made connecting with strangers a more straightforward process, there is trust and credibility that comes with an introduction from a familiar source.
Introductions can be tricky. Start with a client discussion regarding the reason for making the connection. Helping to set connection expectations ensures positive outcomes. Provide an introduction process by coaching a client in what to say and how to proactively communicate without a selfish agenda. Introductions should avoid statements such as “I’d like to pick your brain…” or “I know you can answer…” because the focus is not to impose an expectation. Scripts and practice sessions can boost client confidence and skills to make connections. Providing ways to help clients create introduction statements with brevity and warmth can increase responses and interactions. Educating clients on ways to offer information to new contacts, instead of asking, can be an excellent way to nurture a relationship.
While some clients are ready to connect with professionals, other clients may need additional guidance before making an introduction. Communicate with the client any reasons why a connection cannot occur at this time. It could be that the professional is busy or that the client needs to refine their introduction approach.
2. Informal interview preparation services provide structure and clarity.
Informal interviews are a way for clients to gather key insights about a job or an organization. Providing a process for clients to research and plan for an informal interview can help clients understand job fit or organization culture. It is not beneficial for clients to meet with a person and spend half of the time learning basic information that could have been gathered from a LinkedIn profile or Internet search.
Research allows the in-person time to be an opportunity to ask in-depth questions and to learn information that cannot be easily found. Informal interview conversations require clients to be prepared to lead and contribute to discussions. One way to keep the conversation moving is preparing a few questions that research may not answer such as:
- What are a few significant challenges in the position at the moment?
- What part of the job do you find most enjoyable or challenging and why?
- What surprised you most about this type of work?
- How would you describe the organization’s culture?
- What do you wish you would have known before starting this job?
Clients can benefit from help preparing a few questions, practicing conversations, identifying ways to help grow the relationship, and understanding the importance of a thank you note.
3. Increase client interactions by offering soft skill services.
Communication is an important soft skill for interacting with employers in informational and formal interviews and networking that can lead to employment opportunities. Offering clients assistance with creating scripts and providing practice sessions can improve interactions. Reviewing basic etiquette—being on time and asking about time constraints for meetings, choosing an appropriate outfit, and turning off cell phones—facilitates successful communication.
Succinct introductions allow time for conversations to deepen. Clients who can articulate career information and ask questions tend to have engaging discussions. Thanking people for their time is important. Clients can benefit from sending thank you notes and providing follow-up materials while the meeting conversation is still fresh.
According to a survey by LinkedIn (Petrone, 2018), “The skills all professionals should learn, regardless of what they do are soft skills and 57% of leaders say soft skills are more important than hard skills.”
Supporting clients with robust services on ways to interact with professionals like making connections, preparing for informal interviews, and improving soft skills can enhance networking outcomes to further the client’s career.
Introductions and information interview services provide clients with ways to learn about career options, organizations, and people. Preparing clients with additional considerations, like bringing a resume to a meeting, can also enhance the experience.
Sometimes conversations turn into opportunities, and even a formal interview, so it’s best to be prepared. Guiding clients through introductions and informal interviews can generate positive results and enhance job search service offerings.
Zetlin, M. (2018). How to network like you really mean it. Inc. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/8-things-power-networkers-do-make-connections.html
Petrone, P. (2018). The skills companies need most in 2018 – and the courses to get them. LinkedIn. Retrieved from https://learning.linkedin.com/blog/top-skills/the-skills-companies-need-most-in-2018--and-the-courses-to-get-t
Ruth Pankratz, MBA, MRW, NCRW, CPRW, and CHJMC, is passionate about helping clients reach their goals. In addition to 15 years of corporate experience, Ruth has provided career services for 10+ years, is the owner of Gabby Communications, and a consultant for Lee Hecht Harrison ICEO team. Ruth holds multiple resume writing certifications, has served for 6+ years as a board member for The National Résumé Writers’ Association, and is a member of Career Thought Leaders and Professional Association of Résumé Writers Association. Ruth is a career industry leader and résumé / LinkedIn subject matter expert for professionals, workforce centers, higher education career centers, and career practitioners. She is a sought-out speaker on resumes, LinkedIn, interviewing, and other career topics. firstname.lastname@example.org