Dear Matt: Are informational interviews still in? If so, how do I contact people about setting one up? Everyone seems busy so I am afraid to ask for one. Once set up, what questions would I ask?

Matt: Informational interviews can be an effective way to learn more about a job, company or career path. Talking directly with someone who has experience in a field or job you would like to learn more about can be a great way to get direct insight into their world.

But you are right, people are busier than ever these days, and two Twin Cities HR representatives say the request for informational interviews is on the decline.

"As many organizations have pared down their internal corporate recruiting teams in response to economic challenges, they are now faced with less people to fill their open positions," says Lisa Frame, managing director of the Minneapolis branch of Kelly Law Registry, a direct hire, contract and consulting firm. "Corporate recruiters are stretched to find additional time to build their pipeline for future roles, as the priority is on filling current roles."

That's why it's best to tap into the people you know through your networks (like LinkedIn) to facilitate such a meeting, says Diane Duguay, HR coordinator with Kraus-Anderson Construction Company. People like to help people they know.

Once an informational interview is secured, Duguay offers these questions as a starting point:

1. What is your title and your role with the company?

2. How long have you been at this organization?

3. What do you love about working for this organization?

4. What is the culture of this organization like?

5. What steps besides meeting educational and experiential requirements are necessary to "break into" this occupation?

6. What type of advancement/growth opportunities are available?

7. What are the demands and frustrations that are typical in your type of job?

8. What areas, if any, do you see needing improvement in this organization?

9. What does a person need to do to get their foot in the door with this organization?

10. What is the best career advice you would give to me?

Remember, the goal of this is to seek out information. Plan and prepare accordingly to get the most out of the opportunity.

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