Perfect timing or terrible timing in informational interview request?
July 25, 2014 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Was just browsing profiles on LinkedIn with the thought of learning more about an organization that I just applied to. Found a person who I have a number of connections in common with who may very well work in one of the departments that I applied for. Was thinking of sending this person an informational interview request but I don't want to come off as clandestinely seeking an "in" for an interview for this specific opening. Advice on whether/how to proceed?

Recent graduate here, trying to learn how to effectively "network." I learned about an organization recently that is directly in my area that I have a high level of interest in working at. Earlier this week, they posted a couple of ads for positions that I look to be basically qualified for. Yay! I applied!

Speed forward a couple of days, and I was thinking about next steps in my job search and decided that I should start trying to put some energy into getting informational interviews with people at organizations I am interested in. So I embarked on a LinkedIn search and came up with a person who works at the organization that I just applied to, seemingly within one of the departments that I applied to. We have a number of elements in our background which are similar (same undergrad, same employer after undergrad) plus a number of common connections. Normally, I would feel totally comfortable sending her a random message and asking if she would be willing to meet for an informational interview, but I feel a bit strange about it when I know I already applied for a job that is likely in her department. Would it be weird to send the request, or should I wait a bit? It seems like a potential opportunity to speak with someone doing work in my area of interest and maybe even to get an "in" on the job (or if nothing else to get an "in" on talking to more people at the organization), but I feel a bit sneaky doing it.
posted by thesnowyslaps to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would pitch the interview to her just as you are pitching it to us.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:51 AM on July 25, 2014

I would side eye you hard if you contacted me directly after applying for something in my department. Although you may intend it as an informational interview, you're actually asking for a backdoor interview, and that's not really kosher. I can't speak for everyone, obviously, but if I were involved in the hiring for that position, it would definitely sour me on your application.

If you move forward in the interview process for this company, you'll get the chance to talk to them anyway, and if you get rejected at any point, you can always ask at that point, but I wouldn't do this now.
posted by brainmouse at 10:57 AM on July 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

I agree. There's nothing sneaky about it, unless in the informational interview you ask her if she knows what the interview questions will be. Anything short of that is fine - this is exactly what seasoned professionals do to get jobs. Essentially you are doing your homework - finding out if this organization and team is a good fit for your skill set. Make sure you approach it as a genuinely informational meeting and you'll be great!
posted by leitmotif at 10:58 AM on July 25, 2014

You did it out of order -- you can't ask for an informational interview if you actually want a position there. It's a red flag worst case and best case neutral.

I'd take a look at your connections to figure out how you can randomly run into this person and meet serendipitously; better yet, I'd pursue informational interviews at completely different companies while the application process is playing out at this one.
posted by michaelh at 10:59 AM on July 25, 2014

I thought at first this was someone you knew, but it looks like you just happen to have connections with her. That would feel a little sketchy, if I was her, since you have already applied. You don't want to start out by putting her in a sketchy position.

Take it as a good sign that a person with similar qualifications works in this position, and go to your interview. If you want informational interviews, next time arrange them before you apply.

(or do them at a company you haven't applied to, as suggested upthread).
posted by emjaybee at 11:04 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd agree that an informational interview request would be a little creepy, but I think it would be useful to contact those contacts you have in common. Ask how well they know them and if they could see you happy there. Try to get some insight, but don't push for an introduction. If it's offered by your mutual contact, accept it and let the person at the place you are interested in know that you've applied.
posted by advicepig at 1:58 PM on July 25, 2014

Misread your question - thought you found someone through Linkedin that you knew who worked there. If you knew them, I'd definitely urge you to get in touch for an informational interview. But since you don't know them, I concur with brainmouse, michaelh and emjaybee.

Good luck!
posted by leitmotif at 5:12 PM on July 25, 2014

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