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I recently applied to a firm that I have been interested in for a couple of years. Unfortunately they have no positions open, but they offered me an informational interview next friday and a tour of the studio. I think they're offering me a tour primarily because I have applied before and have been rejected each time, maybe they're taking pity on me?
That being said, how should I approach the informational interview versus a regular interview? Many people say they're different; where a regular interview is slightly more formal and the employer is assessing you, while an informational interview is catered for the potential employee (of the profession) and allows them to ask the employer questions about the firm and practice.
Thus I have questions:
- Should I bring my portfolio? Is it appropriate? Should I ask questions (criticisms) about my portfolio?
- How long should this interview take. I feel like they're going out of their way to do this for me, so I am obliged NOT to take up a lot of time.
- I have a real job opportunity waiting for me overseas, but I wanted to see if would get the job at this firm, and I didn't. How much should I rely on this informational interview that there might be a chance in the near future for a job? On my part, I am only doing the informational interview to establish a connection, but at the same time, I do not want to wait with blind hope thinking 2 months later they may call me up – I need to work ASAP.
- Will a "Thank You" e-mail suffice as a gesture of gratitude for the interview?
Your thoughts would be appreciated
Like many things it can depend on the firm as to why they do IIs. Chances are you caught their attention, but reasons they may be doing them may be:'service to the profession', getting a feel for the talent that is available (for future hires), learning about industry trends (as chances are interviewees have been to other firms, learning about academic trends, boredom/killing time, they like to talk about themselves, testing marketing, etc.
Portfolio: bring it, if you have the chance, show them and ask for critique as it show that you want to improve and learn.
Half hour to an hour is probably reasonable, they may pass you on to HR or staff if they're busy.
I'd discuss the overseas job and ask what things you should concentrate on to make you a more attractive candidate in the future for a firm like them.
Send a hard copy snail mail card/letter.
Informationals are a great way to gather information and a firm's personality. Ask good questions and be very appreciative. For the firms it give them a chance to 'see what's out there'. In my experience a lot of firm principals asked how other firms were doing and tried to get info on work process comparisons. I still stay in touch with many and have received offers of employment from them and have helped headhunt for a few. My current job I got when an informational interview switched into an actual hiring interview. Our firm's last 3 hires were 'informational's - it's a lot less of a hassle to not deal with job posting.
Since you really want to work at this firm, you should approach the interview as if it was for employment. Do bring your portfolio and ask lots of questions. Plan to spend an 45-minutes to an hour with the person and see what happens. It should be obvious If they want you to stay longer for some reason. You must send a written (typed) thank you to each person that interviews you.
Treat it as you would any interview. Prepare the same. If they want to see your work and you don't have it, you're out. If they don't want to see your work and you do have it, you've got a slightly sore shoulder from the heavier briefcase.
@thisisnotmyname and @sneakypete are 100% correct.
They're interested in hiring you, and if the interview goes well, you'll likely be towards the top of the list of names they'll call when they're hiring.
And firms don't just do informational interviews for fun. They do them when they think they'll have new work coming in in the not to distant future, and want to be able to hire quickly when that day comes (of course, sometimes it doesn't come).
Treat this seriously, and good luck.
A couple questions per the responses given:
"Portfolio: bring it, if you have the chance, show them and ask for critique as it show that you want to improve and learn."
"If they don't want to see your work and you do have it, you've got a slightly sore shoulder from the heavier briefcase."
- So are you saying I should wait for them to ask to for my portfolio, and if they don't ask for it, that should be a signal they're not interested? But does that mean I should not ask them for a crit of my portfolio?
"I'd discuss the overseas job and ask what things you should concentrate on to make you a more attractive candidate in the future for a firm like them."
"They're interested in hiring you, and if the interview goes well, you'll likely be towards the top of the list of names they'll call when they're hiring."
- The firm which could not hire me stated in the e-mail, "We recently hired several new people and unfortunately have no current openings. However if you are still interested in seeing the studio, you can set up an informational interview." Should I take that statement at face value and realize I should move on and focus on the overseas offer? And how candid should I be about the overseas job?
Again, your thoughts are greatly appreciated
If it doesn't cause you financial or time hardship to go to this interview, I'd still go. It will add to your personal knowledge base and they may be so interested that they change their mind. Stranger things have happened. Offer to show them your work if they don't ask if it seems appropriate, otherwise treat it as a fact finding visit. I'd jump at the chance to tour some of the firms that I respect, regardless of the potential for a job.
I really appreciate all the help!
So the firm overseas has given me an official offer and they need to know my answer by the end of next week - coincidentally that's when the informational interview is scheduled. Is it safe to assume that even if I leave a positive impression, the most that would be established is a connection or a potential hire in the future but not anytime soon? Even after the principal stated in the e-mail, "We recently hired several new people and unfortunately have no current openings. However if you are still interested in seeing the studio, you can set up an informational interview."
Thanks again for all your thoughts!
Your assumption seems reasonable. With regards to the overseas job, is it a permanent position, or does it have a defined ending date upon which you would return to the USA?
Permanent, but I don't plan on staying there any longer than 2-3 years (which may seem long or short depending on your standards).
I guess that's the good and bad thing about informational interviews (as I read form previous threads and posts; there was some angst about I.I.'s). In some regards it can be a great lead in for a potential job– but if and when– you may never know...
I really appreciate all the help. I think I've asked way too many naive questions.