The Informational Interview: Ask Smart Questions During Media Networking
Ok, now I have an informational interview… what the heck do I ask?
While it’s true that an informational interview is based on the assumption that you don’t know a ton about the industry and you want to learn more, common sense tells you that you should know something about the industry. Your questions will sound more intelligent, you will come across as more focused and you will get the most out of the small amount of time that you have with this person who was kind enough to see you. Bottom line, the more informed you are, the better impression you will make, and you’ll raise the likelihood that your interviewer will remember you in the future.
So, what does it mean to be informed? Of course, this varies by industry, but here is a sampling of some of the hot topics that you should know about. It also doesn’t hurt to check the daily news bulletins posted on Vault.com’s industry boards to get the gist of what people in the industry are talking about.
Broadband – media companies, from Internet companies to publishers to broadcast and cable networks are trying to articulate a broadband strategy. That is, what plans are they making now to get ready for the time when broadband connections are widespread and turn the PC into an appliance where viewers can download snippets of film and customize their entertainment. Right now, the technology isn’t advanced enough (the connections aren’t fast enough) to make viewing film over the Internet a fun experience (unless you have a cable modem, a DSL connection or a T1 line!). But, that will change very soon, and in the near future, we will all have those connections that allow us to watch video over the Internet at real-time speed. So, companies are trying to figure out what they will put on the web, how to make their content work on both platforms without cannibalizing either. It’s worth finding out what the company you are talking to has in mind.
Internet Strategy – this is a little different than dealing with Broadband, because it concerns how a company is using the Internet now. If you are talking about a publishing company, ask if they are using the Internet as a promotional tool, or an e-commerce site, or a combination of the two… If you are talking to a music company, ask about how they feel about delivery of music over the web and how they see the industry addressing privacy issues…
Staffing – ask how these strategies above are changing a company’s staffing strategies. How are they keeping talent in the face of many people going to work for dot.coms? How are they responding to the more fluid organizations popping up around them? Are they looking for different skill sets than they were in the past?
Be prepared to have an opinion on what is happening in the industry that you are focusing on. If you ask the questions mentioned above, consider what you will say if your interviewer turns the question back on you and says, “So, what do you think we should do on the Web?” or “Do you think we should change our magazine’s focus to better attract advertisers?” This is your opportunity to prove to them that you have good ideas – and hey, you deserve to get hired!!
by Gabrielle Dudnyk