If you haven’t read part one yet, you can read it here.
The actual interview is only a part of the task. You need to do some research and prep work before writing your cover letter and resume and you need to do even more before stepping into the interview.
The more you want the job, the more research you should do. It’s never a wasted effort. If you do get hired, it will make your start easier. If you don’t get this job but end up getting hired at a different company, the research you do here will give you better insight into the job you want and the competitive landscape.
We have this thing called the Internet. It’s really handy and it lets you go to company websites – like the website of the company you are trying to get a job with. I feel a bit off writing in that snarky tone, and I almost went back and cut the sentence, but not looking up the company prior to the interview is a shockingly common oversite. If you really want a job and get it, you’ll be there for years (hopefully).
It astounds me when a job candidate hasn’t spent time with my website – and a brief cursory glance is not enough. Read anything that talks about the company, history, products or services and market. Get a feel for the personality of the company and the people. Read their terms and conditions. Try and determine what’s important to them; are they customer focused or internally focused. If they’re an e-commerce company, go through the catalog and ordering process. You can stop short of actually placing an order, but at least do everything but. Four to eight hours of research is a small investment.
Then, don’t stop at the company’s website. Google them. Read about what they do. Read about their customers and competitors. Learn everything about the company that you can. Become an expert in the company. Learn their market. It’s not that hard. Find blogs and message boards that talk about them or cover the same market. What magazines do their customer read? Go to those magazine websites (or even find an actual print magazine). Find out where the company advertises and what the advertisements look like.
This applies to local jobs too. If you’re applying to bag groceries at a neighborhood supermarket, spend some time in the store. Buy something. Look at the organization of the shelves and note the level of customer service and clutter around. Do the same for other stores in the area. Look at the people that shop and work in the store. Are they young, old, happy, grumpy? Go back multiple times at different times. Try to get to know the busy hours and slack hours.
Not only will this help you get the job, but it may very well get you recognized as a really good hire and set you up for a faster path to promotions and raises.
Job knowledge is table-steaks. It’s what’s around the knowledge that gets you hired
Here’s the thing about all of this. Obviously, you need to know the subject matter you are being hired for, but there are a lot of people that know that. That is pretty much table-stakes. You have to have that knowledge, but with few exceptions it’s not what gets you hired. You get hired or not primarily based on what you bring along with those base requirements. And, that’s where doing your research comes in to play. If you know the company, the customers, the competition, the environment that your (hopefully) future co-workers live in, you will be head and shoulders ahead of those who just have the skills.
Here’s my typical time outlay for an interview for which I have high hopes:
- Research while writing my cover letter: 15 – 30 minutes
- If I get an interview, I’ll spend about four hours researching prior to that first interview
- If I get a second (or third, etc.), I’ll spend another two to four hours prior to each interview
It may seem like a lot of work, and it is, but this is your future we are talking about. This is for you and you are worth the time and effort.
Read on in Part 3.