Informational Interviewing – Again

When was the last time you did an informational interview? Contacting someone you may not already know to learn about what they do, and how their company works, can be an eye-opening opportunity. You can gain important information about the work you want to do, and learn about the culture of the place you hope to work at. Many of you have already done this kind of interview – from either side of the table – interviewer or interviewee. Some people, like me, love doing these interviews, and others, while they know it could be very valuable for them, are uncomfortable reaching out to talk with a stranger. While I really love doing these, I haven’t done one in a while so I decided to reach out and talk to a variety of people in hiring positions to learn more about what’s happening in hiring, and to be able to share this information with clients and other readers.

I had the opportunity to talk with someone who does a lot of hiring at an advertising agency with offices in Southern California. She graciously talked with me for about 20 minutes, the usual amount of time that we’ll be able to get from a busy professional who’s willing to help out. I was ready with my questions and she with answers. Below, read some of the most pressing questions my clients and I wonder about.

Q: Give me the straight scoop. Where and how do you typically find new hires?

A: We really rely on referrals; about 40% – 50% of new hires come from referrals. But we do use social networking to identify talent. Mostly through Linked In, but facebook can be a good resource, too. And we do use our database of people who have contacted us in the past if we are looking for a particular kind of candidate.

Q: Tell me more about Linked In. Do you think recommendations are important?

A: Linked In gives a lot of good information. Recommendations are helpful; it’s really about understanding someone’s reputation. So, yes, recommendations help.

Q: But sometimes it’s clear that someone has written a recommendation for a friend and they’ve just exchanged these letters. What’s your take on that?

A: Yes, that’s true, but it’s still helpful.

Q: How long does it take to make a hire these days? It seems like the hiring process has become such a lengthy one.

A: Yes, it does take a long time because we really want consensus by the management team. Since fewer positions are being approved we want to be sure someone will stay on for a long time; the right fit is really important.

Q: In advertising there’s been such a shift to digital media. Do you think that this means it’s a younger person’s field now because they have been ‘digital’ for so much longer than a lot of people who’ve been in the business longer?

A: You might think that, but it’s not the case. Digital positions are taking longer to fill because there are so many variables. We’re looking for people with great technical skills, and people to people skills are a must. So, it’s taking longer to get all of that in a candidate.

Really, anyone who is curious and interested in learning and innovation can be current with technology. If you have the ability and skill to learn new technical skills and the curiosity to learn, you can do this. It’s important to know the answer to ‘what do you want to learn?’ Curiosity is just so important. Age has no role when it comes to innovation. Essentially, the most important thing these days is to be learning and curious.

Q: I appreciate that. I say that all the time! And what about career changers? What do you think about them when it comes to hiring?

A: They need to be willing to be humble and to learn. They need to recognize that even with a lot of experience, if they are starting something new, especially in advertising, they need to know that they can’t just come in at a senior level. They need to learn things from the beginning.

Q: Yes, that can be humbling. Do you find that you get asked to do informational interviews much? And do you do them?

A: We aren’t asked that much. But really with cutbacks we are all working with scaled back resources so we don’t really have the bandwidth to do informational interviews very much. There just isn’t time. Sometimes, if someone is really impressive, we’ll make the time. We had an intern who was really a go-getter and she went above and beyond to show he was interested in our company. Made a website specifically about working here; she’s not working here now, but we’re keeping her on the radar.

Interested in hearing about another sector? Give me your requests for my next informational interview.