Hosted By

Isaiah Hankel
Isaiah Hankel
Chief Executive Officer Cheeky Scientist

Join Isaiah as he shares how to ask for a job referral during an informational interview without things getting awkward

Here’s a quick rundown of this week’s episode…

  • First, Isaiah explains what should PhDs know about referral and informational interviews
  • Next, Isaiah reveals the different parts of informational interviews leading to referral
  • Finally, Isaiah describes the questions that frame things positively in an informational interview

From This Week’s Show… 

What Should PhDs Know About Referral and Informational Interviews

Referral is one of the most reliable methods for getting hired. But it starts with networking. Setting up informational interviews is imperative for networking. PhDs often get stuck at the connection phase. Some may not hear back even after sending a personalized message to recruiters, talent, acquisition specialists, or even just employees working at those companies. You may doubt if you are even on the right track or following the right strategy. You don’t know how to go from connecting or even getting a connection to getting that job referral. It is important to learn how to ask for a referral in your informational interview without sounding awkward. 

You need to interview the person, with a discovery mindset. There is an authentic process, a structure. Something that is not painful to you. When there’s a lot of uncertainty, we feel like we’re putting ourselves out there without knowing what’s going to happen next. You will have to understand what’s going to happen next and control it. An informational interview is your conversation that you have to carry forward. You’re the one that wants a referral. 

At Cheeky Scientist, we talk about the three-step job search referral strategy to attain success. And this is a proprietary methodology that I invented for PhDs because we like structure. 

Different Parts Of Informational Interviews

Informational interviews to generate referrals have three main parts. So the three parts are getting a reply, adding value, and then going into the deeper stages of the informational interview. You need to understand that every problem is followed by another problem in your job search. You reach out and the person answers, and then you’re stuck. Next you wonder what to speak about. 

Going from getting a reply to the second step needs adding value. This requires you to carry the conversation forward. And from there, you can go into more informational interviews and structured questions. You can congratulate them on where they are in their career. You could ask them what they’re working on at their home? And then that goes deeper into asking about challenges and more. 

As you get into that third stage you would have more formal informational interview questions. They’re clearly informational interview questions about the person and their career, but not formal. You should never ask somebody to do an informational interview. It adds too much pressure, you want to keep it casual. 

You’re keeping things within the realm of professionalism, career, but you’re keeping it light. 

Questions That Frame Things Positively In An Informational Interview

The way you do this casually is to start from the first level of professional intimacy. After getting a reply, you can ask them what they’re working on that they’re excited about. Although, it’s the same thing as asking, what’s new, but you’re keeping it within the context of their career. This is a great way to get people talking. When they talk, they’re going to tell you something it’s easy for them to think about. There’s always something in the mind of every individual that they’re working on.  So that allows you to go to the second level of professional intimacy. 

Just extending the first question you can comment on something that they mentioned. And ask, what are some of the challenges that are associated with that right now? They’re going to go deeper. But now you’re elevating not just their credibility in the sense, but you’re elevating their work ethic. You’re showing appreciation for the challenges they’ve overcome. And they’re going to tell you the challenges at the same time that what’s going on subconsciously, this person is having a deeper conversation about the challenges that they’re facing.

The first level of professional intimacy may be topical with everything’s going fine. But you just subtly went a little bit deeper. You asked them about the challenges associated with what they said to the first question. Subtly, change the context from talking about their career, to specifically asking them how they got hired.

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