Informational interviews help set youth up for success. Having a conversation with someone already in the industry or role they’re interested in means learning first-hand what a job may be like, helping young people plan for their great futures.
There is no doubt that interviews play a critical role in the hiring process — they allow an interviewer to evaluate a person based not only on their resume but how they present themselves, answer questions under pressure, show resilience and make real-time decisions.
These soft skills take time to develop, hone and showcase, but setting up an informational interview can help youth determine if a job is right for them. By exploring careers through the eyes of someone in the industry or job they want, young people can ask questions to gain valuable insight into whether a role, company and culture is right for them.
Boys & Girls Clubs partner with companies and organizations that want to see kids succeed. With real-life, hands-on experiences and mentors from their field, Club youth can learn everything they need to know to have meaningful conversations as they explore their career path after high school.
An informational interview is an informal approach to understanding a company or role more. They allow would-be candidates to look at the bigger picture before searching for the role for them. These aren’t interviews initiated from applications or job listings. Instead, an informational chat comes from a more casual connection. By networking, reaching out to people in a company, or being introduced by others, youth can ask questions related to working in the industry or company they’re interested in.
We spoke with Cathy Saunders, head of corporate sustainability and public policy at Putnam Investments.
Cathy and Putnam Investments are part of The Equity Collective, a group of 27 asset management firms dedicated to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion across the financial industry. One way they are hopeful to make a difference in this space is through a partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America. When it comes to informational interviews, Cathy is no stranger and is always willing to introduce young people to the exciting world of finance.
She finds informational interviews are a great tool for Club kids — and all youth — who have an eye on joining the workforce.
To initiate an informational chat, Cathy reminds Club youth not to underestimate the power of online networking and serendipity. Actively connecting with others on networks such as LinkedIn presents powerful opportunities. There’s also something to be said about being open to a chance meeting — you never know who you may connect with!
From there, youth can reach out in the most natural way, whether in-person or via LinkedIn or email. They should be direct and clear about what they’d like to discuss, and they’re likely to be well-received. “The one thing that has brought me the greatest things in my life,” Cathy says, “is simply asking.”
Even though an informational interview is more informal, it’s important to come prepared — especially since this person could become a valuable connection in the future. People always say it’s not what you know, but who you know! Here are some great informational interview questions to ask:
Asking these interview questions can paint a picture of daily life in an organization. With first-hand insight from real-world employees, youth will be better prepared for success in finding a role at the company or in the industry that inspires them.
Even informational interviews can bring up jitters. Remember that nerves are natural, and trying anything new — especially when you want to do well with someone more experienced — can feel overwhelming. “I view an informational interview as simply two parties getting to know each other in a very authentic way.” Cathy says, reminding youth that this is a conversation between two people guided by curiosity. Club kids need to remember that the person they’re talking to is there to help and mentor them throughout this conversation.
Ultimately, Cathy says, “Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. Lean into the places where you feel awkward, get some practice, and you’ll not only calm your nerves but also find it easier. When in doubt, breathe and focus on getting through the first 30 seconds.”
With an emphasis on soft and hard skills, Boys & Girls Clubs across the nation support youth in their career journey through hands-on opportunities and experiences such as informational interviews. When young people have the tools they need to succeed, they can build critical skills, show up as their most authentic selves, and be ready for their great future. Learn how Clubs are preparing young people for college, careers and life and how you can help.
Together, The Equity Collective and Boys & Girls Clubs of America are working to increase career exploration and job readiness skills in Club youth, with a special focus on introducing diverse students to careers in finance.