Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Importance of Interview Prep

It is a simple and sad fact that most people do very little interview prep before they show up, all nervous and sweaty. I suggest part of the reason for their anxiety could be because they’ve shown up having invested little or no time in learning about the very company for whom they seek to work and, therefore, have good reason to be nervous. 

I recognize that interview styles and methods vary, and everyone does things slightly different from one another, however, you can never really know what to expect when you walk through the door. On the other hand, some things are predictable and somewhat ritualistic. If you are aware of this you can capitalize on it and thus gain advantage over others, who show up for their interview, go through the motions, but do little or nothing more. I am not suggesting anything that is too tough and anyone who wants to make a better impression at an interview can do so. Plus, no amount of education takes the place of simple prep. I’ve witnessed college grads with a sense of entitlement get blown out of the water by a supposedly lesser-educated person, who was more serious and better prepared. It doesn’t require much time, 30 minutes to an hour max and, with so much information available online, no one has an excuse to not be better prepared by the time they shake hands with an interviewer. I am referring to basic stuff that people take for granted; some of the same people who later complain about how unfair the system is. But it’s up to you whether you will choose to navigate the system with aplomb (confidence, self assurance), or wander aimlessly only to be chewed up, no better off.

Here’s an example of a very typical and predictable question you can almost always bet you will hear, “So, what do you know about our company?” This is one of the first questions you’ll get during a first interview and the only thing we’ll focus on today. It is a fair assumption, is it not, that if you want to work for an organization perhaps you might have done a little homework and know something about the company? Depending on how you answer will set the tone for the rest of the meeting, for it’s an easy question, if you took a few minutes to be better informed. Would it surprise you to know many people are actually caught off guard and are at a loss for words? This simple question is about as predictable as, “So tell me about yourself”, which is a whole other blog entry.
Even if you are meeting with a company with as high a profile as, let’s say, IBM, Microsoft, even McDonalds, how well can you answer that question? This, ladies and gentleman, is just one of many examples as to how people, who are serious about improving their chances, begin to separate themselves from the herd of others, who are simply goin’ through the motions and stumbling their way through the process. 
So, what do I mean about preparing yourself for this kind of question? First of all, I’ll assume you actually have sincere interest in the companies with whom you are applying to work. If this is the case, go to the company website. Read through About Us or the equivalent page. There you’ll find historical company info and a good explanation of their business. Don’t brush this off, if you go into Microsoft and they ask this question, and you only tell them you know they are a software company without an elaboration, you will have wasted their time and yours. Next, check out the Press Release or News page. This will give you info about current company events, so that during your interview you are clearly well informed. If it is available, check out their page that lists company management; who knows, you may be able to learn something about someone with whom you’ll be meeting. 
What I’ve just described is the very basic fact finding you should do before any first interview. So that, when you have occasion to be asked this question you will have more to offer than other people and demonstrate why you are a better choice than someone who interviews by the seat of their pants, with their fingers crossed.

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