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How to Nail (or Fail) the Interview

Posted on August 17, 2010 by Sean

I know this one isn’t a secret, but it’s so absent in so many interviews that I’m starting to believe that for some reason – it might be. While this issue does not necessarily secure a position, it could, if unanswered, cost you the opportunity. Personally, it would take a strong act of God for me to recommend the hiring of someone who failed on this issue.

Learn about the company.

That’s it. Sounds easy. It is.

If you’re applying for a job in a reasonably established company, they will have information made public somewhere on the Internet.

What’s surprising though is how few people actually take advantage of the resource (which is actually probably why it’s such an egregious offense). The Internet is free. If you don’t have it, go to the library, there will undoubtedly be a smiling older woman who would love nothing more than to help you stop slacking.

In my recent experience, probably 1/5 of candidates have any knowledge of the company they’re engaging, and even fewer can answer shallow-at-best questions about the industry in general. True, some companies hide their information better than others, but it’s out there – if you look.

If you’re totally without inclination, have a look at the company from some of these angles:

About Us/Contact Us – This one is pretty softball. Start here, read everything, memorize key names.

Products/Services – It’s absolutely amazing (by amazing, I mean decidedly un-amazing) how many, in interviews, have almost no idea what the company does. Also, trying to infer company details from the company name is usually not enough, “Uh, you guys generally make motors, right"? – Right.

Competition/Reputation - Once you’ve identified what the company does, have a look at what other, similar companies do. Pro Tip: if the competition is stronger, it’s best not to bring this up.

Blog/Social Media – Whether it’s run by a middle-manager with a paunch or a newly-minted college graduate with a URL for a middle name, most businesses have some kind of social media presence. This is a brilliant way to get a feel for company culture as well as raw opinion from sources other than copy-edited web content.

Given the instant, free access we have to the Internet, we’re all without excuse for not having some answer to the question. Actually, I think this is exactly why it’s so important to have one.


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