Job interviews are big opportunities, whether you’re trying to find a good entry-level position from which to launch your career or you’re scouting for a C-suite position after years of hard work. All the little things you do, from dressing appropriately to shaking hands and looking people in the eye, have a major effect on your performance during the interview, but the majority of job interviews are successes or failures before they even start—based on the research you did or didn’t do in advance.
Interviews are a test of your ability to sell yourself. It’s not some sort of learning exercise in the interview itself or simply an exercise in collaboration. It’s your chance to shine. If you’re getting ready for an interview, be sure to research these seven things before you even set foot in the office:
1. The company’s culture and history. This should go without saying, but research the company’s culture and history. This information can help you understand whether or not you’re a good fit, and what changes you might want to make to your presentation and behaviors during the interview. For example, if you know this company has a laid-back attitude and young leadership, you might consider dressing a little more casually than you would otherwise or speaking with less formal structure. Knowing the company’s history can also make a positive impression if you reveal your knowledge of those facts during the interview.
2. The industry. Hopefully, you already know a little bit about the industry you’re interviewing to join, but the extra research here can go a long way. What new trends and technologies are affecting the way other businesses in the industry are operating? What new competitors have emerged? What’s going to be different in the next several years? During the course of the interview, find ways to address these potential challenges and opportunities. If you don’t get the chance, ask your interviewers some questions about them to show you’ve done your homework.
3. The company’s recent advancements. What has the company been doing in the past few years? Is it a startup that recently received a large round of funding? Is it a 100-year-old manufacturing plant that was recently awarded a national contract? You can find this information on the company’s history or news page (or in local publications). Bringing it up during the interview can be flattering for the interviewer in addition to showing how invested in the company you are. Again, if you don’t get a natural opportunity to bring this up, ask a question about it toward the end of the interview.
4. The position. Before you walk into the interview, you should have a clear idea of the responsibilities and duties associated with the position you’re interviewing for. You may already know the job title and have a vague idea of what you’ll be expected to do, but try digging a little deeper. Thoroughly read the job description you were given, and ask former employees for any insider information they might have about the company’s expectations. If there are any ambiguities, try to clarify them in the interview.
5. A reasonable salary. While most salary discussions come only after the first interview, it’s still important to do your research early. What do similarly experienced people make at similar positions in similar companies in your area? This will give you a basis to start negotiating, and information to cite when the discussion inevitably arises. Glassdoor is one of the best resources for this, but you can also ask people individually at networking events or on social media platforms.
6. Your interviewer. Don’t forget to research your interviewer too. What is his/her position in the company? Would he/she be your boss or your coworker? How long has he/she been there, and what is his/her demeanor? This may be tough to gauge, but a quick trip around LinkedIn can give you a pretty good basis for preparation.
7. Your own reputation. You may think you know yourself pretty well, but it’s hard telling what can come up in a quick Google search or in a passing conversation with one of your former coworkers. Check your Facebook, LinkedIn, and other public-facing profiles to see if anything unsightly might interfere with your reputation before you begin the interview. If you find anything strange or questionable, be prepared to address it.
Nailing an interview starts long before the formal “interview” actually begins; it starts in your home, days or weeks before you ever meet your interviewer. The more time and effort you put into preparing yourself, the more prepared, intelligent, and insightful you’re going to be. Plus, you’ll be able to walk in with confidence, and that confidence can guide you through the rest of the interview process.