Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Three Things To Know Before Your Interview

You've just sent out a pile of resumes when you get an email from a promising company asking for an interview. After a few emails or phone calls, you've set a date and time to meet with the hiring manager. Getting an interview is a victory in itself, particularly in this hiring climate. But what happens when you get that interview? The next steps are preparing to meet your interviewer with confidence and knowledge.

1. Know Your Audience

We've all been warned about keeping inappropriate photos off of Facebook, because hiring managers will look there for information about you. (This I have a definite lock on; I have one person in my network who borrows my Facebook expertise for looking up job applicants.) But just as the hiring manager will be searching your resume and the Internet for information about you, you should also be searching for them. If you belong to a professional association, browse the membership database to see if your interviewer is listed there. Or perhaps you'll find her on LinkedIn, and can find a common connection. Check out local trade publications or business journals; has she been involved in anything that made the news in the past year? Simply googling the name of your interviewer can be helpful; often you can find links to interviews, alumni notes, and plenty of other tidbits that could prove handy. The point of all of this research is to give you a leg up on knowing who you're going to speak to. If you're talking to someone who's been listed as an expert in their field, it might be helpful to mention your own experience in the same field, or compliment them on an interview you read in Business Week.

2. Know Your Potential Employer

While you're looking around for the history behind your interviewer, be sure to also check out what is known about the company in general. Look at local meta-blogs and see if the company's name pops up. (For Boston-area employers, I recommend Universal Hub.) Look for announcements about recent appointments, and you will develop a picture about turnover at the company. Know inside out what the company does, what its mission/vision is, and what business model it uses. All of this is obvious, but important. For example, a few years ago, a young man with an excellent resume and communication skills interviewed for a post at my husband's company. He had the job nailed until the hiring manager asked him to talk about the company and its mission--he had no idea what the company actually did. Needless to say, they passed him over.

3. Know Where You're Going

Few things are more embarrassing at an interview than being late because you couldn't find the appropriate office. This happened to me on an interview just after I graduated from college. I was given a street address, and that was all. Instead of asking for more explicit directions, I pretended to know exactly what I was doing. And that was how I ended up on Temple Street on the other side of the Common with five minutes to spare, instead of Temple Place. And when I did get there, I got lost inside of two connecting buildings. I was late and looked stupid. Don't do this to yourself. Ask for the exact address you need to report to, i.e. floor and office number, and look up a map before you go.

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