Know your prospective employer before walking into an interview

February 10, 2009 marlafederman

interview-marla3Job interviews are scary. The minute you walk into that room you feel like the person interviewing you is judging you, and they probably are. Interviews are based on first impressions, so you better make sure that you make a good one or you can kiss that job goodbye.

Most people by now are familiar with the dress code for interviews (a pair of black dress pants and black dress shoes, a nice blouse or button up shirt, and maybe a blazer or sports jacket).

I have a few other basic rules that I follow to ensure a successful interview:

1. Don’t chew gum

2. Don’t eat during your interview. This should be a no brainer, but it happens. A prospective employer could offer you a doughnut; you take one bite and squirt… jelly all over your shirt. Besides you want to give the person who is interviewing you your undivided attention, and eating can be distracting.

3. Turn your phone off off off; better yet leave it in your car or at home. For one, having your phone ring during an interview is extremely rude, and two, it isn’t very professional.

4. Don’t talk too much. Nothing is worse than interviewing someone who blabs on and on. It is important to keep answers short and on topic.

5. On the other hand, don’t talk too little. It is really hard for the person interviewing you to get to know who you are when you are answering questions with one word answers. You don’t have to talk forever (in fact, don’t) but do make sure that you are fully answering questions.

6. Don’t badmouth your previous employers. Not only is it unprofessional, but the person interviewing you may be afraid that if you were hired, you would speak badly about his or her company as well.

Now that we got all the nit picky details out of the way, on to the one thing that, assuming you followed all of my basic rules, could make or break your interview. The biggest mistake you can make is going blindly into an interview. By blindly I mean walking into an interview without the slightest clue or with very little knowledge about the company you are interviewing with. The other day I came across a great blog post by Leo Bottary that really highlights the importance of researching and knowing everything you can about your prospective employer before the interview. Bottary makes a great point about the significance of asking questions in an interview. “By asking questions that are above the basic and beyond the obvious, you’ll save time, [and] impress your client…” Bottary works for a public relations agency and discusses the importance of knowing your client.

What Bottary says holds true for job interviews as well. In order to stand out, you really need to leave a lasting impression on the person who is interviewing you. So many people just do basic research on companies before an interview. Maybe they will do a quick Wikipedia search and get brief facts about the company, only so they can ask questions they already know the answer to. What’s the point? These companies probably interview hundreds of applicants, so you really have to work hard to get noticed. It is kind of funny to me how obviously important it is for people to know their prospective employer before going into an interview with them. Yet so many people walk into interviews unprepared. I guess the importance of doing research on potential employers sometimes gets overlooked because people are more concerned with preparing for questions they could possibly be asked instead of preparing their own questions for the person who will be interviewing them. I am guilty of this as well. I blew a great job opportunity last year because I neglected to do my homework on the company I was interviewing with.

Last year I had a great job lined up for me at the Oregon Daily Emerald, our school newspaper. I did everything right. I had a great cover letter; great writing samples; professional attire; I was attentive and I answered questions fully. But I didn’t research the company and therefore was not able to ask or answer many questions. To make things worse I wasn’t currently reading the newspaper, and they asked me multiple questions about previous issues of the Oregon Daily Emerald. I learned the importance of research quickly, and unfortunately, the hard way.

This goes to show just how important it is to educate yourself fully about every company you interview with. Learn everything you can about prospective employers so you can impress them with thoughtful questions and also so you can gain insight about their company that you didn’t find in your research.

Image from Google Images by Chubs

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