Showing up to a job interview completely unprepared is a sure way to get your resume tossed into the trash bin. Before meeting face-to-face with a prospective employer, it's important to do your homework. With a little research under your belt, you can respond confidently, ask smart questions, and set yourself apart from other candidates for the position.
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Here are four things you should research before your next job interview:
1. The Company
Search the company's website and LinkedIn profile to learn some basic information like number of employees, office locations, and annual revenue. Keep digging and try to uncover more specifics that will help you show during the interview that you're excited for the job.
- Management: Read bios for the CEO and other top managers, particularly anyone who will be interviewing you. Learn as much as you can about their experiences, accomplishments, and if possible, their leadership styles.
- Mission: Try to find annual reports, press releases, or blog posts that help you better understand the company's history, mission, and goals for the future.
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- Reputation: Search for news stories that mention the company to learn what others think about it. This will give you ideas about how you can use your skills to help the company strengthen its weak spots, and the stories may also shed some light on the company's culture.
2. The Interviewer
You want to find out as much as possible about the person who will actually be sitting across from you during your interview. Knowing more about your interviewer can calm your nerves, and it also helps you prepare to make small talk and ask smart questions.
Ask for the interviewer's name and position. Then do some non-creepy online stalking. Review their LinkedIn profile; it should give you great background information about their work history and education, and it may also offer insights into their personal life (volunteer work or hobbies, for example).
You can also search the interviewer's name on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. It's probably not a good idea to follow or friend them at this point. If their accounts are public, however, there's nothing wrong with taking a peek to get an idea of their personality.
3. Potential Questions
While it's next to impossible to get a list of the exact interview questions you'll face, you can do some research into what's likely to come up. Search online for "interview questions for ___" (fill in the blank with your industry or job title). Then create a list based on the results. Also, talk to others in your industry about what they've been asked during interviews or what they would ask if they were interviewing you.
Don't stop there. Once you have a list of potential questions, spend time coming up with winning answers for each of them. Go over your responses until you feel confident you'll recall what you want to say when you're in the high-pressure environment of an actual interview.
4. The Location
Don't neglect this important step. Too often, candidates wait until they are in their car heading to the interview to figure out where they are actually going. If you rely on a last-minute GPS request to find your way, you could wind up one of the many people who miss out on a job because they arrived late or went to the wrong place.
Ask for the exact address (including any office or building numbers) where you'll be interviewed. Be sure to also get the phone number and email address for your contact at the company; if you have an accident or another issue that makes you late for your interview, you'll want to let this person know immediately. Also, if possible, drive by the location a day or more before your interview so you know exactly how long it takes to get there. Make your test run at the same time of day as the interview so you can take stock of traffic levels.
Doing a little research before a face-to-face interview can mean the difference between being a star and feeling like a spectacular failure.
Jodie Shaw is the chief marketing officer for The Alternative Board (TAB).