How to Gather Interview Intel With Social Media

Let LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook serve as your prep guide.

The words "Social Media" atop an assortment of other technology-related terms
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A company you've anxiously been waiting to hear back from has just called to schedule an interview for next week. Immediately, you begin thinking about how you can turn in a stellar interview that will leave them forgetting all other candidates. The fundamentals apply: sharp suit or professional skirt, being on time, calm demeanor.

But you'll also need to arrive with a sound idea of what the position entails, what the company stands for, what type of employee it's aiming to hire, internal and industry trends, and any other relevant information about the position and organization you can get your hands on.

That's where a company's social media presence enters the equation. Study up via its LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages and you may build a level of knowledge that leaves interviewers thinking you already work there.

[See: 10 Wardrobe Musts For Your Next Interview.]

LinkedIn

Tapping into connections. The genesis of the interview may have come from a first, second, or third connection directly telling you about the job opening or posting it through their feed. While your personal relationship with the connection may be distant (or nonexistent), don't be discouraged from reaching out, especially if the person works for the company with which you have an interview. Those conversations could produce insight on everything from what it's like to work there to the style of interview you should expect.

"It might be worthwhile giving some of those people a call, and most people will be helpful about breaking down the company culture and the accompanying lifestyle," says Chirag Nangia, founder and CEO of Reppify, a San Francisco-based business that uses social-media data to help companies find employees.

The value of following a company page. If you've yet to follow the company's page, do so in advance of the interview. "The company is going to be active in posting updates and information there," says J.T. O'Donnell, founder of the career advice blog Careerealism.com.

Along with learning about recent happenings, the "Home" section of the page provides access to individuals you're connected to and who work or have worked for the company. One of them could be your future interviewer.

Groups are an informational gold mine. Multiply the single voice of a connection by hundreds or even thousands, and that's the resource you have at your disposal by joining an active company-specific or industry-related group on LinkedIn. "The one part of LinkedIn that can be most useful are the discussion groups where people ask questions and get responses," says Nangia.

Joshua Waldman, author of Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies and founder of Career Enlightenment, an organization that helps online job seekers leverage social media, adds that groups are an asset for soliciting advice and discerning what topics are buzzing in an industry or company you're hoping to work for. "Let's say you were interested in social media. You join the social media marketing LinkedIn group, you click on the most popular article, and all of a sudden, you know what an entire industry finds to be the most important thing to talk about right now," he says.

[See: 8 Ways to Amp Up Your Career Using LinkedIn.]

Twitter

Glean the employer's work culture. Some companies feature more than one feed on this micro-blogging site, from a flagship feed to one maintained by the HR department, which can be used to gather useful intel. Wade through tweets on each feed to detect what kind of work culture the company has: buttoned-up or loose and laid-back.

By looking at 50 or 60 tweets, says O'Donnell, "you can see if the company has sort of a funny tone, if they put funny things out to try and get their audience engaged, or if they're staying very corporate, very strict, careful, and that's going to tell you a lot about the organization."

Learn about new projects. Let's say Target booked you for an interview with its marketing department. To get up to speed on its latest efforts, you rummage through the company's careers feed and stumble upon a tweet from earlier this month: "What's happening in retail for 2013." The tweet links to a story quoting Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Jones discussing the chain store's use of "shoppable media," a campaign that uses video or print to encourage customers to make purchases with different technologies. During your interview, you can not only bring up the campaign, but also commend the company's use of it. "[Interviewers] are getting some validation or kudos about something that they've done," Nangia says, noting that your kind words show an interest and appreciation of their work.