7 things to do before the job interview
Congratulations on your upcoming interview! Are you prepared? You probably have a collection of lists of popular (or stupid) interview questions, and you know what to say when you're asked to "tell me about yourself." Now, let's talk about some online homework you can do if you really want to be prepared.
- Visit the company's web site. Spend some time getting to know the company. Read how they describe themselves and their products to their customers. Study the About Us section, learning about the company culture, the backgrounds of their senior executives, and the companies they associate with. Read their white papers and presentations. It can be a lot of work, but if you want to convince them that you really want to work there, you really should know a lot of what the company tells you on their own web site.
- Study the company on the stock sites. The finance sections of the major portals (Excite, Google, Yahoo) offer a lot more than stock trading information. Look over the management and insider lists, read the company summary, look for key competitors. Skim the SEC filings, especially 10-K and 10-Q reports. Even if the tables of numbers are meaningless to you, pay attention to the text, which will include discussion of the company's business, recent history, and current challenges. Hoover's is another source of background information that can be useful. If the company is privately held, move on to:
- Search for other information on the company. Use your favorite search engines. Find articles about the company, its products and its markets. Look for reviews of its products or analyst reports about the company. Find things written by people inside the company and profiles written about them.
- Search the blogs, too. Use Technorati or Feedster to find blogs that mention the company. You may find blogs written by insiders or some that mention the company or its products. Look for blogs about the company's industry, too. You might find an insight into current events in the industry from an industry insider or analyst.
- Set up feeds to monitor the company. One-time searches are great, but most interview processes take some time. When you find good sources of information on the company, add them to your feed reader so you'll see updated news as it's available. Kebberfegg or MonitorThis will set up a long list of feeds based on your search term, but you'll want to add the news feed from Yahoo Finance and others that you find.
- Look up your interviewer(s). If you know who you will be meeting, look them up (and assume that they do the same check on you). ZoomInfo generates biographies from available documents on the web (although the automated bios can have lots of errors, so be careful). Find out if they have profiles on LinkedIn; they have complete control over LinkedIn profiles, so this is the interviewer in her own words. Look them up on Google, Yahoo, or your favorite search site. You're looking for anything they've written, professional bios from trade show appearances, quotes in articles, and anything else that will give you insight into the people you're meeting. You may find some personal details that can help you understand the person behind the job, but be careful about revealing what you learn. You wouldn't want to leave a creepy impression.
- Know how to get there. You don't want to be late, and you don't want to have to call for help finding the interview location (but if you really have to call, call HR, not the hiring manager). In addition to the directions you got with the invitation to the interview, look up the company location on your favorite map site. Use the satellite photo feature to take a look at the building(s) and parking situation. Sometimes it's just nice not to be surprised by the parking layout (which driveway should I enter?) and to know where the building entrance is. If you know where to look for the building, you won't waste time driving around in a search for the building with the right number over the door.
It's a lot, but most of this is stuff you do to learn about your target companies, not things that wait until the interview is scheduled. You don't want to overwhelm yourself with research, but with so much information about companies easily available, you should have a good understanding of the company before the interviewer gets to "do you have any questions?"