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.
A substitute for direct advice. Tweets from the Target Careers feed aren't strictly aimed at corporate types. Those with retail experience who are interviewing for a management position at a store can also turn to the feed. Take, for instance, this tweet: "Looking to challenge yourself on a daily basis? Learn more about life as an executive team leader at a Target store." It links to a video transcript of a current employee breaking down what the job and culture are like. If you have no personal reference to consult with about the position or what the company prizes in its hires, a tailor-made testimonial could be the next best thing.
Getting personal. Your prospective interviewer may have a LinkedIn profile but it's all business, empty of details that reveal who they are on a personal level. On Twitter, however, a more playful side comes out as they frequently tweet about a personal hobby or interest. Waldman says asking about the hobby at the interview's outset can serve as a nice icebreaker and establish a friendly rapport.
Recruiter engagement. In some cases, recruiters maintain a Facebook careers page for the company. Leave a comment on the wall about your impending interview and you may luck out with a response. "You can get a sense of who the recruiters are, what their personalities are, just by engaging with them on their Facebook page," Waldman says.
The power of a friend-based referral. In contrast to LinkedIn, on Facebook, you're more likely to have a personal relationship with the individual who referred and helped you land the interview. That can remove the awkward element of asking for a pre-interview chat. "Let's assume the job seeker has gotten a job interview through a referral via a friend on Facebook. The person who made that referral is a great source of information," Waldman notes.
Better yet, if that person works in the department you're interviewing for, he or she can lay out, step by step, what made their interview a success.
Information gathering. The combined benefit of these social media outlets is that they've made information about your prospective interviewer and employer more accessible than ever. Entering the sit-down with a reservoir of social media-based knowledge signals to employers that you spent considerable time investigating the company and made a serious effort to distinguish yourself from other candidates.
Chipping away the unknown. If you're fortunate enough, the company you're interviewing with has an active presence on at least one of these three sites. By visiting all three, you can chip away at and minimize the unknown. "Interviews are very stressful because we don't know what to expect, and so I think the wonderful thing about LinkedIn and other social media resources is that they are helping us reduce that feeling and have a sense of what we can expect in that interview," O'Donnell says.