Key to Job Interview Success — Preparation

WorkCoachCafeMost employers do not have a shortage of job seekers from which to choose their next employees. To stand out from the crowd of also-rans, successful job seekers use the interview process to showcase their work ethic and to demonstrate their value as an employee.

Here’s how to impress them:

Prepare like you already work there, and
this interview is part of your job.

Preparation is a crucial part of being impressive in the interview. Demonstrate interest in this employer and this position by being well-prepared for the interview, hopefully, better prepared than any other job seeker.

This can also be a good way to determine how good a fit the new employer might be for you, so keep that in mind during your research.

What does that preparation involve?

1. Thoroughly research the employer.

This means looking at the employer’s website, and MORE.

Learn what they say about themselves.

What do they do? When were they founded? How long have they been in business? How big are they? What are the names of the products and/or services? How do they present themselves? Where are they located? Who are the officers and managers and other people visible on the employer’s website?

Check their job postings, if any.

Do they have jobs posted on their website or a site like Indeed.com or SimplyHired.com? Check those job postings — what are they? Do they have a lot of jobs open or a few? Are they hiring in a specific function or location which seems to be growing?

Are you interviewing for a job in the function or location which is growing (if any) or in a different function/location? If there is a function or location which seems to be growing, see if you can figure out why. Or add it to your list of questions to ask in the interview.

If they don’t have a lot of jobs open, perhaps they have “low turnover” – people don’t leave because they like working there. If they do have a lot of jobs open, perhaps that is a different signal. Or perhaps not. When you go there for the interview,  see if you can find out why they have so many – or so few jobs – open (if you observe either in your research).

If they have a section of press releases, scan them and read the latest carefully – and if the latest news was 1 or 2 years ago, wonder a little about what is going on there.

Check LinkedIn

Look for a LinkedIn Company Profile (using a “Companies” search) to see what it tells you. Look for LinkedIn Groups related to their products or services. Perhaps a “corporate alumni” Group exists where former (and sometimes current) employees network.

Use the Advanced people search to find both current and former employees who might be in your network.Which employers (or schools) seem to be the source of many employees? Which employers seem to be the next employer of employees who leave?

If someone in your network is an internal employee, perhaps you can gain an internal advocate or someone who might keep you informed about the process. They might also qualify for compensation by the employer’s employee referral program. [Read To Be Hired, Be Referred for more information about employee referral programs.]

Put Google to work

Google can be a gold mine of information (and mis-information):

  • Reputation.
    Look for clues about the company’s reputation. Search for “(company name, product, or service) launched” and “(company name, product, or service) announced” for good news. Look for bad signs by searching on “(company name, product, or service) closing” or “(company name, product, or service) discontinued.”
  • Competition.
    How are they different from/better than their competitors? Search on terms like, “better than (company name, product, or service)” and “similar to (company name, product, or service)” to find that information.
  • Financial health.
    You don’t want to be the last person hired before the layoffs begin, so check them out. How is the organization doing financially? If it is a company with stock traded on a stock market, there should be an annual report plus quarterly financial reports which will show both sales and profitability. So search on terms like “(company name) financial results announced” and “(company name) improved (or declining) profits.” Going to a company in shaky financial circumstances may mean a new job search too soon if the company doesn’t survive or if it begins laying off employees.

Look for opportunities, challenges, and questions you can ask.

Do you see any opportunities – or challenges – that you might be able to help them address? Don’t give the impression you think they are dumb when presenting your ideas in the interview. Slip in a positive comment or two when the opportunity arises that references a weakness in a competitor’s product or service, for example, and how it might be exploited.

If you see something that looks extraordinary, see if you can find out what is going on, using Google, LinkedIn, and/or your network.  Or, perhaps, ask the question in the interview.

2. Research the people.

Most recruiters I have spoke with always provides the names and titles of the people who will be participating in the interview process.  So, at the very least, he expects job seekers to check the LinkedIn Profiles of those people.

If the recruiter doesn’t volunteer those names, ask for them when the interview is being scheduled.

Of course, LinkedIn will show the job seeker any common “connections” to the people named, as well as others who work for the employer, and the degree of connected-ness with these people  (1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree).

Then, look at the individual LinkedIn Profiles of those employees to learn more about them, hopefully to discover ways to “connect” with the people in the interview process:

  • Perhaps you share a former employer, job, or accomplishment with one of the interviewers.
  • Perhaps you share a college or grad school experience or the same degree and a major.
  • Perhaps you share a location with someone involved in the interview process.
  • Perhaps you share a LinkedIn Group with current or former employees – perhaps a Group for a relevant industry or professional association or  a hobby or interest (like a Red Sox Nation fan club or a local biking group).

The job seeker may be able to establish some rapport with one or more interviewers by mentioning a common background, experience, or interest.

If you have the time to do this research thoroughly, you should be very well prepared to “knock their socks off” in the interview.

More About Job Interviews

How to Knock Their Socks Off in a Job Interview

How to Answer the Top 10 Job Interview Questions

After the Interview, What Is Taking SO Long

When Your Job Interview Doesn’t Go Well

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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. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPostAOL Jobs, and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.

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