You’ve got interviews scheduled. What are you going to do now? No coach will argue about taking a moment (or two or three) to celebrate the milestone. It probably took some effort to land the interviews even in industries where there is a labor shortage. But once you’ve finished celebrating, it’s time to prepare.
An important aspect of your prep work should be learning as much as you can about the job opportunity and your prospective employer. There are three broad categories of information you want to research:
- The company,
- Your target position at the company, and
- The people that will interview you.
Our connected business world makes it possible to gather a lot of information before the interview. You won’t get all the information you might want but you will gain a competitive edge, and self-confidence, by being prepared.
Research the company.
The first or second question I’ve been asked at virtually every interview during my career has been “what do you know about us?” Often, I’ve felt as if my response either made or broke the interview. The question behind the question seemed to be “did you care enough about this opportunity to do your homework?”
Company research before an interview once meant spending hours in a good business library. That’s not a bad idea, even today, because public business libraries may offer access to databases and other resources you cannot access affordably on your own. But you can accomplish a lot with just a Web browser and smartphone, too.
Start by reviewing the employer’s website if you have not done so already. Even if you have read the site before, do a deeper dive to learn all you can about the company in general, the department or function you aspire to work in, the kind of people that work there, and the company’s competitive position.
Don’t forget to look at the employer’s social media as well as its website. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms may offer a lot of information about the company, its products, and its people. Remember, though, that large companies, and probably many smaller ones, too, carefully curate their online image, so search for independent information, including articles in major newspapers, TV news stories, and YouTube reviews of its products.
An interesting idea I came across while researching this article is to use the “show source” feature in your Web browser to see the titles, tags, metatags, and keywords employers may have coded into their sites. This information is intended to help search engines find the Web site, so it’s not objective. It may give you an idea of what is important to the company, though.
Last, but not least, do not forget the obvious. Make sure you verify the address where your interview will take place. Check the directions even if you think you know them. Google may even give you an image of the building. It’s bad form to be late for the interview because you could not find the building!
A relatively small time investment will ensure you are prepared for questions such as “what do you know about our company?”
Know details of the target position.
Presumably, if you have been invited for an in-person interview, you know what job you are applying for and have read the job description. We recommend you read it again and check it against any information in the email inviting you for the interview to make certain you are, in fact, interviewing for the position you applied for.
While it is important to know the official position description for the job you will be interviewed for, remember that the job description is only part of the story. Most of us have experienced situations where the job varies markedly from the official description.
LinkedIn makes it possible to look for people that are currently in the position you are applying for, and to read what they do. It may also be possible to have a conversation with one of the people on LinkedIn to find out more about the job before you go to the interview.
Learn about the interviewers.
LinkedIn and other social media can give us an unprecedented opportunity to learn about the people that will be interviewing us. Try to find out who you will be meeting with, and then review their LinkedIn profiles. Look for their other social media accounts to find out more about them from a personal perspective. Of course, some people either do not have a personal social media presence, or use privacy settings to make certain outsiders don’t see their personal information. Nonetheless, you will feel more confident and better prepared when you have more information.
Although it is helpful to know as much as you can about the interview team, you do not necessarily want to ask about personal information you found online unless they discuss it first at the interview.
Additionally, you may not find much information about the people that will interview you. Many companies have social media policies that restrict the information staff members can post. The name you are given could also be a contact person, and not one of the people that will conduct your interview. For example, an ad I once responded to had me direct my cover letter to “Jamal.” When I arrived at the office, Jamal turned out to be the receptionist.
It’s easy enough now to research the names you are given. As a result, you lose little time if you find no useful information. Today’s online tools, then, make it possible for us to be better prepared for interviews than ever before. It’s easier than ever to research the company, the specific job you are applying for, and the interview team. Yet, not everyone will do their homework. Your research will set you apart from other job candidates when you do the work to be prepared and they do not make the effort.