Have you ever wished you could interview with someone without having a job on line?
As you already know, job interviews come in all shapes and sizes. There are group interviews and panel interviews, video interviews and phone interviews, screener interviews and interviews with hiring managers… These versions have one thing in common. Their purpose is: Job interviews are designed to help employers fill jobs. .
So what if the job opening isn’t certain, or perhaps the worker isn’t sure about becoming a candidate? These are positions designed for a less formal process, sometimes called a “soft” interview.
Not to be confused with an informational interview, a soft interview is a conversation between two individuals to explore options for working together. The potential employer may be a manager of a different department in the same company where the candidate already works. Or this person may be employed in another company altogether.
The main difference between this type of meeting and its better known cousin, the informational interview, is that in a soft interview, the two participants are close to peers.
As a refresher, in an informational interview, the prospective candidate is doing preliminary research to identify what career path to follow or, perhaps, what type of training may be required to enter a profession. . Whether young or old, this person is new to the field and might not be ready to be hired. This creates a one-way dynamic of tutoring or mentoring, providing the interviewer with expertise that helps the worker make decisions and move forward.
A soft interview, in contrast, is a meeting between two people who already share the same industry or profession, or who have so much in common that they can be considered peers in some way. In this case, one or the other initiates negotiations to explore the possibility of working together in some capacity.
Perhaps the most common soft interview scenario is when an employee wants to know whether he or she will find a home in a different part of the company. Inquiry can also stem from discomfort or toxicity in the current job, but it can also be motivated by something more positive, such as a desire to learn more skills.
When a soft interview is conducted with someone outside the company, the conversation can be a little more secure. In these cases, neither side wants to lead the other person, but each is interested in what might happen.
As you can see, with this kind of dance, there may not be a soft interview process for anyone in a hurry to change jobs. But if you’re at the stage of investigating possibilities, it’s a good way to network with intent.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of this strategy.
Don’t rush things. Unless there’s a specific job available or you’ve been told an opening is imminent, there’s no reason to create urgency around these meetings. In fact, the urgency can work against you, if someone feels you’re moving too fast, they’ll be able to pull together.
Request a meeting. For the most part, it’s best not to call it an interview, as it puts the other person in an awkward position. Instead, reach out to ask if they can spare time next week because you want to get their advice on something you’re thinking about.
Communicate openness. When you meet, the other person will benefit from a common understanding of your career goals. That said, be careful not to sound rigid in your objectives. If there’s going to be a final match, flexibility will be key.
Learn about their needs. Part of being open is a willingness to consider work you hadn’t imagined. But even if their needs don’t match your goals, once you understand the circumstances better, you may be able to help them in some other way.
Stay in Touch. A follow-up note or email expressing your thanks is essential, so make sure it is on the way within a day of the meeting. After that, an occasional note or call will keep you up front as things develop on the other end. And if you make a decision that precludes this option, such as taking a second job elsewhere, it’s only polite to share that news in a timely manner, while offering future support yourself.
Amy Lindgren is the owner of Career Consulting Firm in St. Paul. He can be contacted at [email protected].