I recently wrote a post on Mashable about using social media to research companies as you prepare for interviews. You should also research your interviewer(s). Who is the person who will be sitting across the table from you? Having basic knowledge about your interviewer will help you make a positive impression and build stronger rapport during your meeting.
Your interviewer is probably going to Google your name before your interview, so you should Google his name too. I call this “reverse googling.” There’s no excuse for walking into an interview blind to your interviewer’s work history and educational background. With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs, it is rare that you will be unable to find someone online. I’m not suggesting that you comb through your interviewer’s Facebook photos from family vacations and make comments about his children during the interview (CREEPY), but you should know his basic work-related information. It would be great if you knew some likes/dislikes and his stance on important industry issues too.
On LinkedIn, look at his work history, education, and major professional accomplishments. Note any common ground that you share – academic programs, professional interest groups, former employers, cities you’ve lived in, etc. You may be able to strategically bring up the commonalities in the interview, creating an opportunity to strengthen rapport.
Get Him Talking
Through Twitter, Facebook, or any blogs he may have, find out his professional interests or the projects he’s currently working on. This may help you anticipate the types of questions you’ll be asked during the interview. It will also help you craft questions for the end of the interview when he asks “Do you have any questions for me?” People like to discuss things they’re passionate about, so at least one of your questions for the interviewer should get him excited. Get him talking! You can do this by tapping into the professional topics he’s most interested in. He’ll remember that you’re the one who asked a smart question about his favorite topic.
As you’re perusing your interviewer’s social networking profiles, look for personal interests too. These may also lead to conversation opportunities. Recently, a student told me she discovered on LinkedIn that her interviewer was part of a “Study Abroad: Spain” alumni group. The student, having spent the summer in Spain, made it a point to mention her time abroad in response to an interview question about important life experiences. Immediately, the interviewer’s eyes lit up. This one comment sparked a 15-minute conversation about Spain, in which the two shared all of their favorite moments from living there. In this instance, the student’s research allowed her to initiate a strategic (yet completely genuine) conversation which strengthened her bond with the interviewer.
Trying to size up your interviewer is nothing new. Before, astute job candidates could scope out the decor of their interviewer’s office to discern interests. Athletic trophy displayed on the cabinet? This might be a person with an affinity for sports talk. Eccentric painting on the wall? You may be able to engage him in a discussion on art. Now, you don’t need to guess a person’s interests based on paraphernalia hanging on the walls. You can find all this information on the internet before you ever walk into the office.
In an ultra-competitive market such as today, it’s imperative that you take a no-holds-barred approach to job seeking. When you prepare for interviews, make an effort to learn about your interviewer. You never know what you may find and how it may help you during the interview.
Dan Klamm is the Outreach & Marketing Coordinator for Syracuse University Career Services. In his position, he is responsible for raising awareness of Career Services events and offerings to campus and external audiences. This includes managing the marketing campaigns, writing news releases, leading social media initiatives, and fostering relationships with people across campus (and beyond) to enhance knowledge of the office. Dan also advises students on using social media for career success and he presents career development workshops to student groups regularly. Connect with him on Twitter @DanKlamm and LinkedIn.