Researching Before the Interview

As you read the following wrong scenario, ask yourself whether this has ever happened you. Jane is in the process of interviewing. She has applied for twenty jobs, three of which have asked her for an interview. On the first interview, she walks into the room and is invited to sit across from the interviewer. Aside from the welcome, the first thing that she says to him is, “What do you know about our company?” With a blank stare, Jane sits there and smiles trying to recall any scrap of detail she can. She can’t, however, because the company isn’t a name brand and it wasn’t one of his referrals. Saying, “I am not that familiar with your company,” draws from the interviewer what can be defined as ‘exasperation.’

If you even said that it happened one time, that is one time too many. I think that quite possibly the most embarrassing thing that can happen to a candidate during an interview is forgetting information about the company, the position or the interviewer.

In the News

According to a recent report from CNN, the majority of job candidates are not prepared when they walk into an interview. It is important to know that many organizations rely almost strictly on performance during an interview when making final decisions. In other words, if it comes down to two almost identically qualified candidates but one candidate represented him or herself better in the interview, it is almost a sure bet that the better prepared individual will get the job offer. Therefore, it is crucial to make sure the potential employer sees your “best self” throughout the process. This means knowing not only yourself, but also the industry and the company. According to his recently published book, “Next-Day Job Interview,” author Michael Farr says, “The more you know about the job, the industry and the employer, the more likely you are to present yourself well in the interview.”

Tips of the Trade

So how can you be better prepared and informed when your next big opportunity presents itself? Here are some tips:

Forward-Thinking

As you are in the process of applying for positions, create a file where you can keep the following:

  • Your Resume
  • Each position-customized cover letter
  • The contact information for the person to whom you wrote the letter
  • A copy of the job description for each position

Be Thorough

As soon as you have applied for a position, do research on the organization, the department and their general responsibilities, and any other information that you can find through the Internet or through your referral/source. These days, a lot can be learned about a company simply by accessing press releases. A general search in Google may turn up such information. If this does not work, then check the company’s web site to see if they maintain a library of archived public relations material. You can also gather additional information by reaching out to current or former employees, or even asking the interviewer ahead of time, if you can receive information such as brochures or pamphlets. This will provide you with the type of information you need to formulate a good company profile, and develop insightful questions for the interviewer.

Just remember that knowing general information, such as industry type and current stock valuations, will often not cut it by itself. You need to be thorough, accumulating enough information to tell yourself whether this potential employer fits your needs, goals and personality. You should not look at an interview as a one-sided event. As you may well know, not every interview which results in an offer is one you should accept. You should be interviewing the company just as much as it is interviewing you.

Think: Bigger Than the Box

I have found that interviewers/recruiters are especially impressed when you can come to the table knowing not only details about the organization, but also your perception of how you can add value in the prospective position. This can be found in the posting, and, if you wrote your cover letter well, it should also be included there. Note the areas that especially touch on your expertise in the description and make sure to mention those when asked why you are the perfect candidate.

Review & Study Your Research

Once you have been asked for an interview, go back to your folder and pull out all the related information for that position. Read over it immediately and then read over it again before you walk into the interview. If there are areas that you don’t understand or areas for which you may not qualify, such as software skills you do not have, or a particular area of study with which you are not familiar, do the background searches on those as well so that you are at least able to speak to them intelligently. This may help play down the fact that there is a learning curve and display to the potential employer that you’re serious enough to have researched it ahead of time.

Be Careful

While being knowledgeable is a key to your success, being too knowledgeable can come across as cocky. For instance, don’t tell an interviewer that you reviewed their Website, and, “Here are 101 ways to improve it.”

One Last Word

While been thorough is your very best bet for success during an interview, there are a few questions to ask the interviewer that will go further to demonstrating your interest in the position. Just a couple include the following:

  • Was that position recently created what has it been in existence? If newly created, make shore the interviewer can adequately explain why it was created and the expectations of the new role. Don’t challenge. Instead, ask insightful questions that will lead you to the conclusion for which you are searching.

Ask the manager or interviewer what he/she believes is the greatest challenge faced by the organization, namely the department within which you would be hired to work. This demonstrates your interest, your realistic approach to the situation by gathering information on all sides, and will also tell you if you own special talents or skills to help face or solve that/those challenge(s), which you can then discuss with the interviewer.