There’s no way to get around the uncertainty that comes with the whole interview experience. However, you can boost your confidence and improve your chances by being as prepared as possible
This means preparing for all those weird and wonderful interview questions, selecting the perfect outfit and getting into the specifics of the role and the company.
So how do you do this? We explain how to approach this crucial step in the interviewing process.
Why does interview research matter?
The first question many interviewers will ask is, "Why are you interested in working for this company?" And simply replying with, "It sounds like a good job" isn’t really a winning or acceptable answer.
You need to show that you know what the company does and what their place within the industry is. If you know nothing about the company, you’re showing your prospective employers that you didn’t care enough about the opportunity to put in a little time and effort to learn more about them. Remember you’re trying to become part of the team, and by not doing some simple research you’re already showing you’re not a team player!
Where do I start?
The two main aims of any job interview are to establish that you understand what the job actually is, and that you have the ability to do it well.
So every question you’ll get asked during an interview will be geared towards establishing your suitability for the job and your fit within the company as a whole. So that means you need to understand these two elements perfectly.
The job ad
It’s easy to forget about the job ad once you’ve actually applied for a position but it’s absolutely crucial to return to it again before a job interview. It’s actually an invaluable tool as it tells you precisely what skills are required and what the job actually entails. You’ve essentially been given the questions before the test so make the most of it.
Read it again and again, until you’re familiar with what is expected in the role. Don’t fall into the trap of just rehearsing your own employment history – that’s what your CV is for. You need to make sure you apply your skills directly to the job at hand, so prepare some answers that show how your skills match the requirements and memorise them before the day.
Going into an interview without knowing anything about the company can really hurt your chances at securing a job. The internet makes researching so easy that it just comes across as extremely lazy if you don’t know anything about the company. So where can you find out about your potential employer?
The best place to start is, of course, the company’s own website. Corporate sites usually provide a wealth of information, containing everything from current product or service information to a history of the business. Things like the ‘About Us’ section can offer a good insight into the company culture in particular. Are there photos? Is it written in an informal tone or is it very professional? It’s all important to take note of. Pay close attention to anything that details the company structure in particular and look to see where the job you’re applying for sits in the business.
Similarly, company Facebook, Twitter or Google+ pages can give you an idea of how companies approach their clients and their business. It can also provide an insight into how a company fits into a wider industry. Who are the key players? How important is interaction? Knowing these kinds of details can really give you the upper hand in an interview.
LinkedIn is another tool for finding broad company information, as is company profiles on job boards. You’ll also be able to see what other positions are available, giving you some idea of any expansions or restructures happening within the business. You can also gain some insight about similar companies, who may be major competitors, as well as company statistics which is always useful to know.
The personal touch
If you’ve been given your interviewer’s name, you can even look up their LinkedIn profile. Having some understanding of their position and background can help you formulate an interview strategy that will compliment both of your interests. Just stop short of actually stalking! And remember they’re probably looking up your social media profiles as well, so make sure your privacy settings are set accordingly.
Research puts you in the perfect position to answer questions and, just as importantly, ask the right questions.
One recruiter told us the story of the candidate who, when asked if they had any questions, simply replied, "What do you actually do here?" Don’t let that horror story become your interview experience too. Treat yourself and your interviewer with the respect you both deserve and do your research. You’ll be glad you did.
Need more interview advice ? Check out our interviews section, which has handy hints on everything from answering common, difficult and weird interview questions, to what you should wear and do’s and don’ts of body language.