Meet Steve, a job hunter attending a networking group of his peers. As we enter the room, we overhear his conversation with Sally, another job hunter:
Steve: "…my old college roommate got me fixed up with a job interview in a few days at ABC Company."
Sally: "That's great news, Steve!"
"Maybe," he responds. "I don't know much about the company and I'm going in with an open mind to let them tell me more about the organization and the job. I'm open to seeing if this is a good opportunity for me."
The good news: Steve has sought out and attends networking meetings for job hunters. They exist all over, and often take place in local libraries or houses of worship. In these groups, people build relationships to support each other, share their needs and offer leads and suggestions of what to do next. People practice their elevator speeches and gain supportive suggestions from peers who are going through the same process of ever sharpening their message and its delivery.
Steve has apparently done a great job of networking. He has motivated people from much earlier in his life to be involved and helpful with his current job hunt, and through them he's thereby been able to get his foot in the door to meet with the hiring manager. Kudos to Steve for all this.
The problem: Having come this far, Steve won't likely be successful if he goes into a job interview expecting to be courted, without first demonstrating his interest in the company and the value he represents.
Here are four things that Steve and every other job hunter should do to prep for an interview:
1. Thoroughly research the company. Check out its website, as well as its reputation on sites like Glassdoor.com and Vault.com. Check out its financials, business issues and competitors using sites like Yahoo! Finance, Google Finance and Hoovers.com. Hoovers is subscription based, but many local public libraries subscribe and allow their patrons to browse the site free of charge. Follow the company on LinkedIn, and see what people are saying.
2. Take time to carefully review the job description or advertisement. Prepare short narratives of how and when you have done each thing that is mentioned. Be prepared to talk about obstacles you encountered and how you dealt with them successfully. And by all means, be prepared to talk about past achievements that you have attained which in any way relate to the work necessary for the job.
3. Do an advanced people search on LinkedIn for current employees in the area of the company where you would be working, and review as many of their profiles as possible. When you are doing this, it is best to be in stealth mode. Go into the Privacy and Settings menu, adjust what others see when you have looked at their profiles and click on the "You will be totally anonymous" button.
Look for points that you have in common with individuals whose profiles you are reviewing. For example, you might have worked at the same company, attended the same school, developed similar skill sets, etc. Also seek out anything that will give you a tip off about the kinds of people the company likes to hire and the kinds of achievements that are most valuable to the company. In short, seek out anything that will give you a tip off about the kinds of people that the company likes to hire and the kinds of achievements that are most valuable to the company.
Prepare as well to subtly mention any points of commonality that you share, whether it is a past city, company, school, etc. It can be as simple as saying in one of your answers to an interview question, "When I worked at XX we did such and such ..." if you know that several people in the department also worked at that company.
4. Prepare to ask intelligent questions. Never ask a question that you would know the answer to if you had done your homework. Instead, show your engagement and background by asking, "Do you do X this way or that way?" Show your desire to go above and beyond by asking, "What are the most important contributions I can make in the first six months on the job?" And include this killer interview closing question: "If I'm hired and you give me a stellar review a year from now, what will I have done to earn it?"
If a job seeker approaches an interview with an attitude that suggests, "tell me why I should want to work for you," that person is not likely to get to the point of having to decide whether or not to work for the company. But if that same job hunter adopts the right attitude, does effective research and practices interviewing with others, he or she can sharpen the points to be made in the interview and maximize the chances of hitting the bull's eye.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.