Interview Preparation

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 an employer. Here are some great tips that most people do not know that can help you gain a competitive edge.

 

Check Out the Interviewer and the Hiring Manager

The more you know about the person who makes the hiring decision, the better you can focus your conversation. In your phone screening you should always ask who the position reports to, and armed with this information you can research their background. If you are not interviewing with them in this first round, then additionally follow the same steps for the person with whom you are meeting. 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. This last one is very good but a bit tricky to do – find their profile, click on the drop-down menu next to ENDORSE and click on RECENT ACTIVITY.

Also see if they are active on Twitter and check out their tweets as these give a glimpse into their personality.

 

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.  You can also search your college alumni database to see if anyone worked there and alumnus are generally more likely to respond to your request,

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.”

 

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 and even YouTube. That’s all pretty standard. Here are some other things you can do, which vary depending on the type of position you are seeking.

 

SALES

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 and flaws. Then call a competitor and see what happens.

I know a sale 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.

 

MARKETING

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 using 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.

 

FINANCE / ACCOUNTING

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.

 

HUMAN RESOURCES

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?

 

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

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 and 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 Dice and note if there are specific technologies or positions they are trying to fill.

 

BE PREPARED

Did you know that you create a lasting impression in just 120 seconds? Here are some things you need to consider to impress them.

  1. Bring copies of your resume – There is nothing that stalls an interview faster than when the manager says he forgot your resume and you do not have an extra copy.
  2. Practice your handshake – Your only and immediate physical intimacy is with your handshake, so practice it on your family members. Good tip: if you are concerned that your palms may be sweaty, sprinkle a little baby powder in your pocket.
  3. Make eye contact and smile – Show that you are happy to be there and looking forward to the discussion. People instinctively react well to happy, smiling people.
  4. Energy level – Put some bounce in your step. Act like you are excited to be there and are filled with ideas.
  5. Dress appropriately – Do not overdress. You can also call the receptionist and ask what the dress code is. Receptionists generally love to help.
  6. Be aware from the time you hit the lobby – Assume you are on camera at all times. Treat the receptionist well as some firms will ask them for their impression.


Follow these tips and you will see dramatic improvements in your interviewing and overall job search.


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