When a company has contacted you about an interview, you might think your work (getting your resume in order, pulling together your application package) is over. After all, ball’s in their court, right?
Not so much. The legwork you do between the initial outreach from the company and the day of your interview can make the difference between getting the job and going through this process again with a different company and job. Preparation is essential ahead of the interview, and thanks to the wonders of Google (or your preferred web search engine), you can set yourself up nicely.
Find as much information as you can on the company.
Check for news alerts in particular, as these can tell you what the company’s public face is. Are they constantly on the defensive for financial shenanigans? Are they always at the forefront of raising money for your favorite charity? Good or bad, this research can give you a baseline of information about the company in general.
The good things (strong financial success, major philanthropy efforts) can be casually worked into the conversation during your interview to show that you’ve been paying attention to the company’s fortunes. The bad stuff, well, that’s for your own reference. It won’t endear you to that company’s employees if you open with, “Jeez, you guys had a heck of a bad quarter, huh?”
Do a little digging into the company’s key people.
This can include the person who will be interviewing you. A quick check of LinkedIn can tell you if you have any shared school or business connections. When you do this bit of research, though, tread carefully. Remember that on networks like LinkedIn, you can see who’s been looking at your profile, and how many times. So while natural curiosity can seem proactive, definitely be wary of seeming stalker-y.
That same policy applies in the interview itself, too. If you and the interviewer both went to the same school, great! You have an in to talk about the football team during the small-talk portion. But if you just recite personal facts you gleaned from social networks, it may make you look aggressive or obsessive.
Research your potential job title at the company.
Even if you don’t have specific names from the place where you’re interviewing, you can easily search for more generic information. Try typing in “[company name] + [job title]” to see if there’s any information floating around about the specific job—that might turn up information at sites like Salary.com and similar review websites. This could also help later, if you receive a job offer: it can give you a frame of reference for salary or benefit negotiations.
Know the company’s mission.
This type of information is often readily available on the company’s own website. Knowing their stated core values puts an answer in your back pocket if the interviewer asks, “What drew you to this company?” or “What do you already know about this company?” If you can smoothly say, “Like Company X, I also fully support providing organic snacks to baby seals,” without missing a beat, it’ll emphasize you can fit well in the company’s culture.
The more information you have before you ever set foot in the interview, the better off you’ll be. After all, they’re not just evaluating you and your specific skills, but also you as a potential team member and ambassador for the company.