A reader asked, “How do you find out about a potential job environment if you don’t know anyone who works there?” One suggestion is to arrange a “curiosity conversation,” which is similar to an informational interview. When you speak with someone who knows about an organization you are interested in, here are tips to begin a curiosity conversation about it.
The curiosity conversation is intended to find out whether a certain organization will be a good career fit for you. At this point, you are only seeking information, not asking for a job. This distinction will ensure that the person you are interviewing will open up more candidly.
One of the best ways to learn about an organization is through third-party referrals. Find out if someone in your network knows an employee associated with that organization. Arrange a 15-to 20-minute conversation.
If you don’t know anyone to ask, try one or more of these options:
- Research recent articles/podcasts by someone in the organization.
- Look up the company online for names to contact.
- Scan LinkedIn, Indeed.com, Moodys, Vault.com., or other job boards.
- Ask for contacts in circles where you travel, or through organizations you’re involved with.
- Attend a local networking group to expand your network.
You may want to conduct a curiosity conversation on the phone or online rather than in person. If you do speak with someone face to face, your level of sincerity is very important. When you interview someone on site, get a sense of how you would enjoy working there. This is a good way to informally learn about the culture, the actual job, and whether it may be a good career fit. Whether you speak with a person onsite or indirectly, ask similar questions about the company.
Use the statements and questions below as a guide for what to ask during a curiosity conversation, and how to launch it.
- Please describe a typical day on the job as a (job title).
- What are the most important and necessary skills in this department?
- What traits are most valued here?
- What do the most successful people here accomplish on a regular basis?
- What technology is necessary for one to know in this job?
- Do employees have the option to work from home?
- Is the organization committed to the health and well-being of its staff?
- Does the ethos of the company align with my personal values? For example, is the company formal or informal?
- Does the company keep employees informed regarding industry news?
- Is there an ongoing commitment to education, leadership opportunities, and career development?
- What information should I know before an interview? How do I secure that information?
- Are you happy working with this company? Do you have any complaints or concerns about it?
- If I have more questions in the future, who might I talk with who is as knowledgeable as you are?
Further tips. Establish up front if the person has 15 to 20 minutes to speak with you. Don’t overstay your welcome. When your time limit is approaching, wind down the visit and ask to stay in touch. Thank them; don’t forget to get his or her contact information. Send a brief follow-up thank you note by mail. It is bound to be appreciated.