3 Things You Must Know Before Your Interview

They will be researching your resume – here’s why you need to be researching theirs.

two men shaking hands for interview

Did your last interview go something like this…:


Interviewer: [Blah blah blah, raised voice at the end to emphasize that it’s a question.]

You: [Talk for a minute or two, showing off your skills through stories about your past experiences.]

Interviewer: [Blah blah blah, raised voice at the end to emphasize that it’s a question.]

You: [Talk for a minute or two, showing off your skills through stories about your past experiences.]


… and so on for about an hour? Now, obviously the interviewer didn’t sound like the adults in Charlie Brown to you, and you answered their questions without fumbling because you’ve been practicing the answers.


But your interview shouldn’t be an interrogation—it should be more along the lines of a conversation. The interviewer has tons of questions for you because they want to make sure you’re the right fit for the company. They’re already passionate about you if they’ve brought you in to the interview. It’s up to you to prove your passion for them—and just talking about your past experiences and technical skills isn’t going to cut it. From the company’s perspective, that seems like you’re just looking for any ‘ole entry-level job in whatever field you’re pursuing, not that you want this job, with this company.


To show your enthusiasm (without just saying “You guys make awesome products!” or other such sentences without substance), you have to ask questions about the company or show how your skills will help the company achieve its specific value proposition. To ensure that you don’t ask very basic questions that Google could answer for you in two seconds, you’re going to have to do some research before your interview. Here are three basic things you should look up:


1. The Brand The Company Built: Just as you’ve spent time making a personal brand that you’ve put on your resume, the company you’re interviewing with has a brand. It will inform you what the company’s value proposition to consumers and users is, and how it differentiates itself from competitors.


Say you’re applying for a marketing job at Microsoft. No, you don’t have to get rid of your Apple iPod (though you should probably hide it before entering the building). But you should know how Microsoft positions the Zune, and how that compares to the iPod. Discussing the struggle of competing with the iPod, or talking about a feature you think is cool on the Zune and how you would market that, would show the interviewer you have an interest in bettering the company.


2. New and Noteworthy Developments: What has the company been doing recently? Have they acquired another company? Are they expanding? Are they moving into new markets? Make sure you know a little bit about both where the company has been and where it’s currently going.


It’s good to ask questions about why they’re expanding (if they are, of course), what their next moves are (hopefully hiring you is the next one!), and showing how you would fit into that future.


An easy way to search for recent news about a company is to use Google’s search tools, which allow you to filter results by time. This way Google will only return stories from the past year, or month, or even week, depending on the filter you apply.


3. Play Around with the Product: Most likely, the interviewer will ask you if you’ve used the company’s product and services before, and what you thought of it. How embarrassing will it sound if you say “Sorry, I haven’t used it that much before, but I’ve heard really great things”? (The answer: Pretty embarrassing.)


Let’s go back to our Microsoft marketing example. Alright, we already know you don’t have a Zune. That’s not important. It is important that you review Microsoft’s current marketing materials, though. For instance, since we’re coming up on August now, lots of companies will be launching “Back to School” ads and promotions. Familiarize yourself with the current campaigns so you can initiate a conversation about them.


It may seem like a lot of research (and so soon after you finished school and looked forward to never writing more research papers!), but all this will show how your skills fit in to this specific company, and enable you to ask great follow-up questions. You should also have a list of questions prepared, because towards the end of the interview, you will inevitably be asked, “so do you have any questions?” The only wrong answer is “No.”
But doing the research won’t get you anywhere unless you bring up the information in your conversation! If you don’t, it would be like doing all the research for a college paper, but not actually writing the paper—and all your professor cares about is that paper (even though school is about learning and gaining knowledge and not grades and—we digress). Write down specific points you want to hit beforehand so that you ace your interview.


Written by Ashley McDonnell


Would you like some expert guidance in preparing for an interview? Check out our Transform Interviews Into Conversations WebClass.

Posted by Team Fundamentum