It might feel weird to prepare for an interview when you don’t even expect it to lead to a job, but it’s worth your while to do your homework before an exploratory interview, and treat it just as seriously as you would any other job interview. You never know when the situation might go from an informal chat to a serious path to a new job.
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If you’re getting ready for an exploratory interview, here are a few tips to help you.
1. Prepare as if it’s an actual interview.
Granted you may not know details about possible roles in the company, but approach the meeting in a manner so as to create a positive image for yourself. Read up about the company and the competition. Prepare your elevator pitch about your experience. Dress professionally and conduct yourself well. Be ready with questions you can ask about tips and advice on your career stage; don’t just show up for the meeting.
2. Be interested in your interviewer, too.
It’s not just a one-way meeting. While your interviewer wants to learn more about your background and interests, go prepared to ask questions about your interviewer’s career graph as well. Check out her LinkedIn profile, papers she’s published, etc., so you come across as a person who’s prepared for the meeting. Plus, getting insights into how she worked on her career could also help you with tips in managing your own.
3. Don’t push for a role.
While you should be aware of the roles that the company is hiring for (check job sites, the company’s career portal, etc.), the purpose of this meeting is not to land a job; it’s to make a connection. Sometimes, however, your interviewer may ask you if you are interested in any role in the company, so do look for open roles in your area of expertise before the meeting. Use the opportunity to understand what they look for, how the hiring process works there, and so on, in order to understand how recruitment works in the company.
4. Request additional contacts.
Make sure to politely ask for contacts from the person toward the end of the meeting. Chances are that you will end up with names of prospective contacts at other companies. Even if you don’t get any names, thank the interviewer for her time and input.
5. Send a thank-you note and stay in touch.
Send a customized thank-you note and use the note to share any additional information you think may be helpful. Stay in touch, maybe by sharing articles from your discussion, offering holiday greetings, etc. Keep it relevant, but don’t overdo it.
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