So, you had a professional resume prepared, you passed the initial phone screening, and now you have been invited into your first face-to-face interview with this employer.
Here are some great tips that most people do not know that can help you gain a competitive edge.
Before Your Interview…
1. Find out what kind of interview it will be.
These days the interview may not be the standard one-on-one interview with you and the hiring manager evaluating each other.
The best way to be prepared is to ask in the initial phone screen what kind of interview it will be and who will participate. Different types of interviews include team interviews, group interviews, speed interviews, and, of course, Skype and video interviews.
Explain that you need this information so that you set aside an appropriate amount of time for the interview. Of course, knowing what to expect also helps you be better prepared.
2. Check out the interviewer and the hiring manager.
In your phone screening you should always ask for the name of the person the position reports to. Armed with this information you can research their background.
The more you know about the person who makes the hiring decision, the better you can focus your conversation.
If you are not interviewing with the hiring manager in this first round, ask for the name of the individual(s) who will be interviewing you.
Then, do your research about them before the meeting.
- Where have they worked (did you work for the same or a similar company)?
- What was their career path (do you have a similar path)?
- Do you have a school or location in common with them?
This helps you build rapport with your interviewer and remember –-
People hire people they like. So, your job is not only to impress them with your skills and experience, but also to get them to like you and want to work with you.
LinkedIn will tell you all sorts of information including how long they have been there and where they came from.
Be sure to see what LinkedIn Groups they belong to, who they are following, their interests and projects, whether you know anyone in common, and if they have posted comments and articles.
Also see if they are active on Twitter and check out their tweets as these give a glimpse into their personality.
[For more, read Smart Research: Check Out the Hiring Manager.]
3. Search for former employees.
In LinkedIn you can search for past employees and may also find the person who held the job before. Here you will find a rich source of insights, and information regarding the position, the manager, and the corporate culture.
Regarding the request, the best way to ask for information is to use something like the following:
“I found you on LinkedIn and noticed that your background includes working at ABC. I am interviewing there and wondered if you could answer just a few questions as a random act of kindness. I promise not to take much of your time and thank you in advance.”
You can also search LinkedIn’s Education section to see if anyone from one of your schools worked there. A fellow “alum” is generally more likely to respond to your request than someone with whom you have nothing in common.
4.Research the company.
Of course you will check the company out by viewing their web site and press releases. You should also see their presence on Twitter (and follow them), Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube. That’s all pretty standard.
Also, Google the company name plus the word “review.” If they market specific products or services, do the same Google search using the product/service name. (You might want to also read 50+ Google Searches to Avoid Layoffs and Bad Employers for more ideas.)
Here are some other things you can do, which vary depending on the type of position you are seeking:
- For sales jobs —
If you are seeking a sales position then try to “mystery shop” the company. Just call the company and indicate you are interested in knowing more about their products and services.
Pay attention to your conversation with the sales person and see if you can identify any flaws. Then, call a competitor and see what happens.
I know a sales professional who, when meeting with the manager, said
“By the way I mystery shopped your firm and your competitors. Would you like to know what I found out?”
This caused the interview to go from a 30 minute time frame to over an hour, and clearly distinguished him from the other candidates.
- For marketing jobs —
For a marketing role, try to determine how they generate interest and brand awareness. Check out the web site reviewing the user engagement and experience.
Also look for them on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.), and see how many followers, likes and so on they have.
See what kinds of offers and interaction they offer. You can probably see what ad agency they are using by just doing a Google search.
Then, see if you can intelligently comment on what they are doing, and formulate questions appropriately.
- For finance / accounting jobs —
For these kinds of positions, look for their financial statements and press releases. This is simpler for a public firm, but you can find basic information for pretty much any organization.
Check out their key financial ratios, read the Management Discussion & Analysis (MDA) on the SEC reports so you are better armed than other candidates in your discussions.
- For human resources jobs —
You have probably already applied for the position so remember the experience. Was it cumbersome and time consuming? Are there improvements you can imagine? Are they using social media to find talent? How well written do the job postings seem to be?
- For information technology jobs —
LinkedIn is a great way to identify the key technologies they are using by simply looking at the profiles of their current IT personnel. See what groups people have joined. Also check out discussions on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Google the name of the CIO to see if they have appeared in articles. Additionally search for articles in Computerworld, CIO, and other leading publications to see what topics they are addressing.
Look for advertised positions on the corporate website, DICE, or any other job board they use, and note if there are specific technologies or positions they are trying to fill.
[For more, read Job Interview Preparation with Smart Google Research.]
Before you leave for the interview, be sure that you have all of the necessary documents and are ready make a great impression:
- Arrive on time.
NEVER be late, but be wary of arriving too early. Appearing 10 or 15 minutes early is about right, in case you need to navigate elevators and long hallways. Hopefully, you have checked out the location and environment so you know what you will encounter.
- Bring several copies of your resume.
There is nothing that stalls an interview faster than when the manager says s/he forgot your resume, and you do not have an extra copy. Keep them in a formal notebook where you can also take notes during the interview.
- Bring a copy of the job description.
Hopefully, you will have notes on it (or underlined/highlighted passages) which you can use to remind yourself (and them) of questions you have about the job.
- Have your personal business cards ready. As you are introduced to the interviewer(s), give each a copy of your personal business card which should cue them to give you their business card. This provides you with their job title and name. If they don’t have cards with them, make note of their names (including correct spelling), email addresses, and job titles.
- Dress appropriately.
Do not overdress. You can also call the receptionist, and ask what the dress code is. Receptionists generally love to help. Or check out the location before the interview, if possible.
- Prepare your smart answers to the common interview questions.
Standard questions are usually asked by most employers. Be prepared for those questions by relating your answers to this specific employer, based on your research.
After the interview, follow-up promptly with your thank you notes or emails to each interviewer. Read Guide to Writing Thank You Notes After an Interview for details.
The Bottom Line
Follow these tips and you will see dramatic improvements in your interviewing and overall job search.
More About Succeeding at Job Interviews
- Pre-Interview Preparation
- Smart Answers to Interview Questions
- Smart Strategies to Answer to Behavioral Interview Questions
- 50+ Good Questions to Ask in Interviews
- 45 Questions You Should NOT to Ask in Job Interviews
- 50+ Google Searches to Avoid Layoffs and Bad Employers
About the author…
Don Goodman is a triple-certified nationally recognized career professional (Expert Resume Writer, Certified Career Coach, and Job Search Strategist) with over 20 years of experience helping thousands of people quickly land their next job. Don graduated from the Wharton School of Business and Stanford University’s Executive Program.
More about this author…