I dislike interviewing. Many people do. Students often assume during advising appointments that because I can ramble off some sample interview answers on a whim, that means I must be world’s best interviewee.
Not so much.
When it’s interview time, I’m just as much of a mess- at least internally- as the next person. With practice, I’ve learned a few techniques that help me relax. Remembering to breathe is a good start. Slowing down, really listening to my responses and reflecting before I speak also helps. But, the best technique I’ve found is arming myself with information prior to the big interview day.
One of the most important parts of interview preparation is researching the organization and interviewer ahead of time. Employers repeatedly indicate that the best way to stand out in an interview is demonstrate you know something about the company. After all, how can you possibly demonstrate that you are the perfect fit for a position if you don’t know anything about the organization?
Tips for Conducting Company Research
- Check out the website (of course). You don’t have to do a six page analysis of their third quarter earnings. You should, however, check out all parts of the site and take note of things that genuinely interest you or questions that come up as you read. Use these notes to come up with a list of high-quality, well thought out questions to ask during the interview. What is the company’s mission? How do they describe the work environment? How is the company structured? What is the company’s history?
- Google the company. Read up on the latest news regarding the organization. Set up Google Alerts with the company name and related search terms to get instant updates when new, relevant information is posted on the web.
- Review the company profile on LinkedIn. Has anyone in your network ever worked there? If so, touch base with him or her. Also, take a look at employees’ profiles to see what kind of experience they had prior to joining the company and where their career has taken them (within the company or elsewhere) since.
- Connect with the organization and/or its employees on Twitter.
- Ask your friends and campus career center if they know of any students who have previously interned or worked at the organization. Anyone who has will know the real scoop on what it’s like to work there. Sometimes the best resource is the person sitting right next to you in class!
- Explore Hoovers to determine the company’s main competitors and key executives.
- Check for employee reviews of the company online.
- Companies like Vault or WetFeet publish company guides. Check with your campus career center or library to see if any of these guides are available.
- Whether you have an upcoming interview or not, keep up with industry blogs and print publications so that you are always up to speed on current events and industry trends.
Public speaking, like interviewing, creates a lot of stress and nervousness. Experts recommend knowing the presentation topic inside and out before speaking. The more a presenter knows about his or her topic, the better he or she is able to anticipate potential questions from the audience.
The same idea applies when interviewing. You may learn more about the company than you’ll ever end up actually needing in an interview. But the more you research, the more confident you can be that no matter what you are asked, you will be ready to provide a great answer.
Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Kelly received her masters degree in Higher Education/Student Personnel Administration from New York University, and her bachelors degree from UW-Madison, where she majored in Political Science and Women’s Studies. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.