How to ask for an informational interview without appearing embarrassing?


SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, answers questions from HR as part of a series for United States today. Questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Do you have an HR or professional question you would like them to answer? Submit it here.

I will be graduating from college this year and want to work in the advertising industry. What’s the best way to ask people for informational interviews? I’m afraid of sounding uncomfortable. -Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr .: Congratulations on your next diploma! First of all, I want to congratulate you for thinking about the future. Informational interviews can be a great way to learn about an organization’s culture and values ​​from someone who knows it best.

Your concerns are valid. Reaching out to someone you’ve never met before can feel a little uncomfortable. But my best advice for building your confidence is to be prepared.

Familiarize yourself with the business that interests you. Start by checking out her website and social media platforms to explore the content she shares. Is there an initiative or project that you personally connect with? What questions might you ask yourself about work and culture? Read articles that introduce the company or include quotes from team members. These stories can give you insight into their priorities and how they work.

Because this first step is often the most difficult, I will ask you the following question: do you have a common bond with someone who works in the company? It could be a friend or someone who went to the same school as you. If so, you can respectfully reach out and see if they can do a virtual introduction, if any.

Once you have scheduled to meet for an informational interview, plan and rehearse your questions in advance. Identify a few areas that you would like to learn more about, such as what a typical day at the office looks like or the types of services offered by the company. This can provide benchmarks for your discussion and keep you on track.

In addition, you should be prepared to share a bit of your personal experience, such as what you are studying, why you are interested in working in the advertising industry, and any relevant experience you have that you could apply in the field. .

If you are respectful and prepared, the people you interview will likely be impressed with your initiative. Remember to do the following: take a deep, relaxing breath; ask your questions; and be yourself. And finally, don’t forget to follow it up with a thank you email or handwritten note. Hope you found this useful. Good luck!

The pandemic has been very hard on my business and my team (I manage a small team in retail). Suddenly, management is very tense, emotions are strong, and everything seems magnified. How do we make sure that we are always leading with empathy and fostering a positive work culture? -Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr .: Thanks for your timely question. If I learned anything in 2020, it’s that the pressures of the year impacted employers and employees in a million small ways. Simply put, it is difficult to balance work and personal responsibilities in the midst of a pandemic and an economic downturn.

In an age when many of us are not physically in the office, it’s especially important to empathize with in-person and remote employees, who may feel isolated and overwhelmed.

I would take it a step further and say that empathy is not a soft skill, but a business skill – it’s what helps people work with others who have stories, styles and backgrounds. different perspectives. It’s a trait that is really needed in today’s workplaces.

I’ve seen first-hand how employers and HR professionals work hard to create more empathetic workplaces. As a manager, you are in a unique position to help members of your team who may be facing professional and personal stressors. If you’re not already, I suggest you run regular checks – closely monitoring workload, body language, and non-verbal cues – and have an open door policy (or “Zoom open ”) where your team can contact you on a regular basis or as needed. The importance of honest communication and frequent engagement cannot be overstated.

I also want to stress this: empathy is a two-way street. Employers face some of the most difficult challenges they have ever faced. Managers and HR work hard to meet the needs of employees and businesses. Listening, showing compassion and instilling empathy into the corporate culture cannot be done by employers alone. It also takes employee buy-in.

The ability to have and demonstrate empathy is and will remain a critical part of leadership, before, during and after this pandemic. When you practice empathy, you set a strong tone for the culture of the organization and a roadmap for success. Thanks for contacting us, we’re all in the same boat!