Most people think there are two kinds of interviews: job and informational. But recruiters and hiring managers report that some job seekers are trying to have another kind: I call it the exploratory interview, and it’s a big mistake.
When the interviewer for a sales position asks, “Why do you want to work in sales?” you might say honestly but tragically “Sales is one option, but I’m also considering marketing.” You think you’re being flexible, but you’re digging your own grave. When you apply for a job, you have to convince the interviewer that you want that job and only that job. In this economy there is no room for doubt.
Don’t Use A Concrete Job Interview For Career Exploration
A job interview takes place when there’s a job or set of jobs at stake with a hiring manager, Human Resource manager, or a recruiter. From your resume and the interview, they will judge which openings might be right for you. You will spin and tailor all your materials –resume, cover letter, interview spiel—to that specific job or company.
If You Need Direction, Then Explore
If you don’t know what kind of job you want or are suited for, set up a round of exploratory interviews with family, friends, colleagues, outplacement or (college) career counselors. Be explicit about your process. Tell them: “I’m looking for a new job or thinking about changing careers and I’d like to ask your advice. Given my resume, background, skills and talents, what do you suggest?” Don’t do your career exploration and soul-searching with a potential boss.
Once You’ve Narrowed the Field, It’s Time For Informational Interviews
Now you’re ready to use your network to learn more about a specific industry, company or position—which of course you hope will lead to concrete job openings.
There is usually no job at stake in an informational interview—but if there is a specific job opening you’ve identified or for which you may even have an interview scheduled, this is also a good time to set up informational interviews to find out as much as you can about the company, their needs and goals, and the parameters of that job to help you prepare.
Don’t Use A Potential Employer As a Career Therapist
You may only get one shot at certain people, so use your leads and contacts carefully and selectively. Exploration is an essential part of the job-hunt; just make sure you do it at the right time and with the right people.