A Typical Informational Interview

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So now you've done your homework, built your network, and begun using your contacts. It's time to go on your first informational interview.

You were, of course, smart enough to include John Fredericks, the bank officer who handled your dad's mortgage, on your original contact list He knew you as a bright and conscientious college senior; in fact, your perfect three year repayment record on the loan you took out to buy that '67 Plymouth impressed him. When you called him, he was happy to refer you to his friend, Bob Jones, a top PR executive at XYZ Media, Inc. Armed with permission to use Fredericks' name and recommendation, you wrote a letter to Bob Jones, the gist of which went something like this:

I am writing at the suggestion of Mr. John Fredericks at Fidelity National Bank. He knows of my interest in public relations and, given your position at XYZ Media, Inc., thought you might be able to help me gain a better understanding of this specialized field and the career opportunities it presents.

While I am majoring in communications and minoring in political science, I know I need to speak with professionals such as yourself to learn how to apply my studies to a work environment. If you could spare a half hour to meet with me, I'm certain I would be able to get enough information about this specialty to give me the direction I need.

I'll call your office next week in the hope that we can schedule a meeting.

Send a copy of this letter to Mr. Fredericks at the bank it will refresh his memory should Mr. Jones call to inquire about you. Next step: the follow up phone call. After you get Mr. Jones' secretary on the line, it will, with luck, go something like this:

"Hello, I'm Paul Smith. I'm calling in reference to a letter I wrote to Mr. Jones requesting an appointment."

"Oh, yes. You're the young man interested in public relations. Mr. Jones can see you on June 23rd. Will 10 A.M. be satisfactory?"

"That's fine. I'll be there."

Well, the appointed day arrives. Well scrubbed and dressed in your best (and most conservative) suit, you are ushered into Mr. Jones' office. He offers you coffee (you decline) and says that it is okay to light up if you wish to smoke (you decline). The conversation might go something like this:

You: Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Jones. I Jones: "Well it's my pleasure since you know you are busy and appreciate your taking come so highly recommended. I'm always the time to talk with me." pleased to meet someone interested in my field."

You: "As I stated in my letter, my interest in Jones: "Fire away, Paul". public relations is very real, but I'm having trouble seeing how all of my studies will adapt to the work environment I think 111 be much better prepared to evaluate future job offers if I can learn more about your experiences in public relations. May I ask you a few questions about XYZ Media?" °_

Mr. Jones relaxes. He realizes this is a knowledge hunt you are on, not a thinly veiled job interview. Your approach has kept him off the spot he doesn't have to be concerned with making a hiring decision. You've already gotten high marks for not putting him on the defensive.

You: "I have a few specific questions I'd like to ask. First, at a company such as yours, where does an entry level person start?"

You: "Where and how fast does someone progress after that?"

You: "What is the work environment like is it pretty hectic?"

You: "If I may shift to another area, I'd be interested in your opinion about public relations in general and what you see as the most likely areas of opportunity in the foreseeable future. Do you think this is a growth career area, despite the many changes that have occurred in the last 18 months?"

You: "Do you think someone with my qualifications and background could get started in PR at a major firm? Perhaps a look at my resume would be helpful to you." (Give it to Mr. Jones.)

You: "You have been very generous with your time, but I can see from those flashing buttons on your phone that you have other things to do. Thank you again for taking the time to talk with me."

Jones: "In this company, we rotate new people through all the areas we work in corporate communications, media relations, and sports public relations. You'd spend about two months in each area, then specialize in the one you're most interested in or the area where we need you most"

Jones: "Obviously, that depends on the person, but given the proper aptitude and ability, that person would simply work on bigger and bigger accounts. How well you do all along the way will determine how far and how fast you progress."

Jones: "We try to keep the work load at an even keel. The comfort of our workers is of prime importance to us. Excessive turnover is costly, you know. But public relations is an exciting business, and things, change sometimes minute to minute. It's not a profession for the faint hearted!"

Jones: "Well, judging by the hiring record of our company, I think you'll find it's an area worth making a commitment to. At the entry level, we've hired a number of new people in the past three or four years. There always seems to be opportunities, though if s gotten for more competitive."

Jones: "Your course work looks appropriate. I especially like the internships you've held every summer. I think you have a real chance to break into this field. I don't think we're hiring right now, but I know a couple of firms that are looking for bright young people with qualifications like yours. Let me give you a couple of phone numbers." (Write down names and phone numbers.)

Jones: "You're welcome."
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