The more you can do before the interview, the better you will be prepared to answer and ask the “killer” questions.
Three main areas of research to get under your belt before the interview:
- The Company
- The Job
- The Interview
Lets take the company first, here’s a big list, not necessarily complete, you can probably think of other things to find out:-
Who are they, what do they do, where are they, how big are they, are they local, national or global?
Can you find out a bit of history about them, when did they start, have they been involved in a take-over, are they an independent company, or part of a group, do they have subsidiaries?
What is their current performance, if you understand the financials, can you get hold of them for the past three or four years?
If you don’t understand the financials, at least try to find out if they’ve made a profit and how this has changed recently?
Has there been a reason for any big differences?
What are their plans for the future, expansion, consolidation, contraction?
Have they any new products or services in the pipeline?
Who are their main competitors and how are they doing?
What is happening in the industry in general, are they bucking the trend or following it?
Where can you find this information?
The Internet is the obvious place, be a little careful. The company’s own Web Site will paint a rosy picture. They can’t tell lies but they may add a bit of gloss or hide bad news. Use only professional Web Sites for information, the social web may not be all that accurate!
Depending upon where abouts in the world you are, there will be some information available from the stock market or stock brokers. For a large limited company or incorporated company, you should be able to get hold of the latest report for shareholders.
Next place for information is your library. Use one of the large city libraries, they normally have a good business section and the librarians are proud to show their knowledge of their systems. Directories are available in paper versions and on CD ROM or online. Trade magazines are another good source of information and you will be amazed at the number and diversity of these.
Then, of course, there’s your network. Do you know anyone who works for the company, buys things from the company, sells things to the company or provides a service?
The next level is do you know anyone who knows anyone … and so on.
A warning – take information from someone who is actually involved with your target company right now, not has been or has a friend who does and passes information third party.
Go to the “horse’s mouth” for the good information, not the other end because what comes out is only fit to help plants grow!
If all else fails, ring the company direct, confirm the date and time of the interview and ask if they have any information regarding the company they can let you have in the post. They might have an internal newsletter or even just a catalogue. Anything you can get your hands on will be useful.
Now let’s look at the job.
You should know a fair bit about this in the first place, after all you did apply for it and, to get an invitation to interview, you must have done something right!
You read the advert, got hold of the job description, possibly the person description, analysed the company needs and prepared an application where you matched your best skills to the company requirements, true?
If you haven’t got the job and person description from the company, now you have an excuse to ring them. Why? To get hold of information which most of the other candidates will not even have thought of and, most important, show the company you are going the extra mile. What can they learn from your phone call, what brownie points will be ticked on your file before you even get to the interview?
What information are you looking for? Again a bit of a list:-
Where will I work, who with, what type of location, office based or field based, how much travel will be involved?
Will there be any training, how will my success be measured, will I be working with other people or very much on my own?
What hours will I work, will there be any shift working, what will be the main responsibilities of the job, who do I consult if I need answers or help?
You might be able to think of other things you need to know, you’ll notice that salary and other benefits aren’t on this list. Yes, it would be nice to know them, wait for the company to volunteer the detail, handle any negotiation after the interview when you have the job offer, not before you even get in the door.
Where do you get the information from? Same as before.
The Internet can give you an idea of salary levels, look for other adverts. There may even be a Web site which gives industry average pay rates. These may be available at the library and your network might help you. You need to talk to the right person, though. Remember, go to the horse’s mouth!
And now the interview.
You may have received an idea of how the interview will be conducted in the invitation letter.
The initial screening interview might even be conducted by telephone or, now happening with greater frequency, by Skype.
They should tell you who the interviewer will be and their position in the company. If they need you to make a presentation as part of the interview, you’ll be told how long you have and the subject of the presentation.
You really need to know something about the style of the interview, will it be an informal chat, a formal panel based discussion, will there be any tests, psychometric or skills based, or will it be a competency based question and answer session?
If you haven’t been given any clear instructions, get on the phone and find out!
If you can dig out anything about the interviewer’s personal likes and dislikes, their style of interviewing and what they do in their spare time, this would be a bonus. Your network is probably going to be the only source of this information.