The Winning Difference: Pre-Interview Preparation
Often, the first question a job seeker is asked in this tough job market is, "So, what do you know about us?" Be sure you have some good answers ready.
Think of a job interview as an "audition" - your opportunity to impress the employer with your work ethic and skills. Your network and/or your resume got you this interview. Do NOT assume that the interview is simply a formality before you receive a job offer.
Don't walk into a job interview planning to "wing it" and expect to receive a job offer. That's not going to happen in this job market!
Unless you like wasting time and postponing finding your next job, be very well-prepared for each interview. Interviews are opportunities to "close the sale" on your new job, and these opportunities can be rare. Don't waste an opportunity!
Prepare for the standard interview questions and types of interviews you might have
In this guide, we cover the common questions you will be asked like, "Tell me about yourself?" and "Why do you want to work here?" Knowing and practicing your answers is very important for your success.
But wait! There's more you can do, and it will help you succeed at that interview...
5 Kinds of Critical Pre-interview Research
In the current job market, you want to stand out from the crowd. You will impress potential employers by showing them how interested you are in the job, which also means demonstrating your interest in the employer. So, prepare for the interview by researching the organization and, if possible and without "stalking" them, researching the people, too.
Prepare by knowing as much as you can about the organization, the people, the location, and the industry.
The Internet provides a wealth of information for job seekers. These are 5 places where you can start your research. If you have time, keep looking. The more you know, the better off you will be. Not only will you be in knock-their-socks-off mode for the interview, your research could help you determine that the employer might not be a good place for you to work.
Throughout this process, keep notes on questions that are raised.
At the end of your research, you should have a good idea of what to say when they ask, "Do you have any questions for us?"
1. Visit the organization's website
This is "the party line" about the organization – what they tell the world, and potential customers/clients, about themselves. Study the home page, but don't stop there. Read the "About Us" and "Contact Us" sections. Then, look around at the other pages.
- Know the mission or purpose of the organization. Be sure that is what you expect and want to be involved in.
- Become familiar with the products or services. Know the brand names, if any, or at least the purpose or function.
- Look for names of the officers or founders. Are they familiar to you, or, perhaps, known to you?
- Where are they located? Are you interviewing at the "headquarters" or one of the smaller "field" offices?
Does the information on the website raise any questions or concerns for you? Do you see opportunities for you? Make note of your questions, concerns, and potential opportunities so you can ask about them during the interview.
2. Put Google, Bing, and YouTube to work gathering important information about the organization.
This is where you see how well "the party line" relates to what the rest of the world thinks. Reality about an employer could be quite different than what the website tells you, depending on the quality of the website and/or the quality of the organization.
If you have product or service names, use a search engine (or two) to see what is being written, said, and videoed about the products or services. Look for reviews on Yelp and other review sites. Dig in past the first couple of pages of results.
Look for reviews. Look for happy and unhappy customers. Look for the names of competing organizations and competing products or services.
Again, use this information as the basis of questions you might ask during the interview.
3. Check the LinkedIn Company Profile
The name "Company Profile" extends to school districts, non-profits, and other non-corporate entities, so click on the word "Companies" from the "Interests" drop-down menu at the top of your LinkedIn home page. For many organizations from Fortune 500 to local small businesses, LinkedIn will often have information about the people who work there and also the organization itself.
Plug in the name of the organization you are researching into LinkedIn's search bar, and see what LinkedIn finds for you – well worth checking out!
4. Use Google/Bing/YouTube to research any names you have (e.g., executives and the people who will be interviewing you), and also check their LinkedIn Profiles.
Have some of the executives been taped giving talks at conferences? Watch a video or two, and know the conference dates and names.
Again, does this research raise any questions or show you any opportunities? What are their reputations? Experience and education?
You may find that you have some "connections" with someone interviewing you. Perhaps you attended the same college or have the same former employer.
5. If the organization is a publicly-traded company, check what the stock is doing on Yahoo! Finance.
Particularly if you are interested in a role in finance or accounting, it is a very good idea to become familiar with how well the company is doing, financially. In addition, look over the balance sheet, the short-term and long-term stock performance, and the other information available.
And before you head out the door to go to the interview, do this last bit of research…
Check Google News for the latest news from - and about - the organization. You don't want to be surprised, or look clueless, if they have very recent BIG news - like a new product or service recently launched, a new plant opened (or an old one closed), a new CEO/COO/CFO hired, etc.
It would also be good to know if the stock price just took a big jump (or drop), and why.
Doing research will enable you to provide better answers to the interviewers' questions, demonstrating that you have done research before the interview. The research will also enable you to ask good questions during the interview, again demonstrating your preparation and the quality of your work. Most job seekers "wing it" in job interviews, so your preparation will make you stand out in the crowd. The Boy Scouts are right – be prepared!
© Copyright, 2013, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.
About the author...
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan is a two-time layoff "graduate" who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.