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Are you wondering what it would be like to work for a particular company? To find out, you need great intel – and current intel. And that starts by networking with someone on the inside.

Instead of: Continuing to read about the company, making judgement calls from Glassdoor reviews, or simply imagining what it’s like to work there…

Try: Connecting with someone who can give you the real deal.

1. Decide who that person is. Start with an important question: Who do I know who works there? If no one, then think through 2nd and 3rd level connections who can introduce you to an insider—LinkedIn is a great for this. Once you identify a target, ask for an informational interview.

2. Ask open-ended questions. Questions like: “I read that employees are not treated well; is that true?” are not helpful—nor does that sound like you are conducting an informational interview, which is what you have requested. Instead, prompt conversation with questions such as: “I would love to know more about the culture at ABC Widgets. Can you describe it to me?” or “I am curious about what you do in your role as a Marketing Manager. How did you get your job?” or “I see you have worked at the company for almost 5 years. What would you say is a highlight of working there?” Open-ended questions invite your new contact to tell you more, and they are more likely to elicit key information you did not expect to receive.

3. Don’t dismiss a potential source. If you catch yourself thinking, I can’t talk to Heather, she is too junior to give me good intel, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Heather may have a close relationship with a key decision maker, and she may be just the person to pass along your resume. In other words, any employee can shed light on a company and give you an “in.” Don’t assume one person is better than another based on title, tenure, or any other measure.

Leveraging your network can help you collect insider information about a potential employer, but it doesn’t stop there. If you’re strategic with this important new connection, it can get you one step closer to becoming an employee of that great organization you used to wonder about, and even finding greater career happiness.


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