Preparation and research are the keys to effective interviewing. For each interview you schedule, be prepared to do about 90 minutes of online research. Having a firm grasp of the terrain creates a competitive advantage and gives you the ability to steer the conversation.
For each interview, prepare a file folder that includes the pertinent details. If you are seeing success in your search, you will occasionally have trouble remembering all those who you are talking to and why. A log and good notes get increasingly essential as you move closer to the job.
There’s a level of creepiness involved in looking into someone’s personal details. It’s a necessary evil in a world where 30% of new hires last less than 18 months in a job. Job changes are strenuous and it is very important that you know exactly what you are getting into. The creepy feeling (like you are looking through someone’s trash) is a part of the process of making sure you are getting into a situation that will work for you.
Here are the seven things you need to know before you interview and how to find them out. In a very interesting way, this mimics the process that the company will be using to try to understand you. If you actually spend 90 minutes looking into the interviewer, you’ll know more about her than she knows about you.
- Know your interviewer’s background, and work history – Whenever you make an interview appointment, be sure to get the interviewer’s full name, title and email address. Use Google to ferret out the basic details. Scan through and review the first 60 or 70 search results. The images tag on Google will most likely show you a picture. Once you have a fix on the person, look them up on LinkedIn. It is useful to know things like: education (including schools attended), recent jobs in or outside of the company, and career history. Note: the more common the name, the longer this will take.
- Understand her interests and hobbies – The more little details you can discover, the easier small talk will be. The initial part of an interview is all about warming up the room. Having a good sense of how your interviewer spends time and prioritizes things will make the conversation more fluid.
- Master the details of the job description – Job descriptions are wretchedly boring. There’s a good chance that most people involved in the process, including the interviewer, won’t be perfectly familiar with the details. When reviewing the job description, write it out longhand on a piece of paper. Stop after writing each sentence or phrase and think about what it’s telling you. Look for little things. Generally, the first item on the list of ‘duties’ is the most important. Does it synch up with the rest of the description? Are there clues about organizational politics or the hiring manager’s style?
- Review the company’s business – Go to the company’s website and study the product and service offerings. How do they describe themselves? Is the language something you understand or is it gobbledygook? If there’s an annual report, try to read the high points. Try to get to the place where you have a rough understanding of the working parts of the company.
- Read the latest company news – For most companies, this is as easy as looking at company news at one of the major search engines. It’s particularly easy and fruitful in the case of public companies. Scan the web for tidbits about product introductions, performance, awards and so on.
- Research the competition - Start with a publicly traded company in the same business. By looking at their data on the financial section of the big search portals, you can find links to other competitors and the name of the broad industry category. Try to identify the top two or three competitors and develop a little understanding of their operations.
- Assess the company’s workplace reputation - Search for the company on Glassdoor. Glassdoor provides first-hand information (salary reports, interview questions and reviews and company reviews) on more than 70,000 companies.
As you get more comfortable with the process, it will move quickly. Don’t try to memorize everything. Scan the information and let it seep into your unconscious. The more you prepare, the easier it will be to recall the right information at the right time.