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Preparing for Interviews: Do Your Homework

One of the things I have noticed as an employer who is in charge of hiring is the number of people who apply for a position and never prepare for the interview.  This becomes obvious to anyone who is doing the interview almost immediately.  If you are going to the trouble of applying for a new position and actually get an interview – don’t treat it cavalierly.  Prepare and do your homework.

First and foremost at the very least read the job description and company website.  Familiarize yourself with the job requirements. Whether this would be a move up the corporate ladder or a lateral move each position is unique.  Spend some time thinking about how you meet the job needs and what you have to do to excel at them.  If you don’t meet all the of the requirements be able to articulate which ones specifically you meet and which ones are a stretch.  Studies show that women in particular do not apply for positions in which they don’t meet ALL the requirements. While men apply even if they only meet 60 percent of the requirements[i]  No candidate meets 100 percent of the requirements so be honest and forthright and secure in your strengths.

Read the business/non-profit website with a fine tooth comb.  You will learn a lot about an organization from what’s written and what’s omitted.  Use a critical eye to see if information about the organization is easy to find.  Is their website aspirational?  Is it all text or are there pictures about the people, places and products/or services that are offered?

Search the web for articles about the products/services/organization/business. Have they been in the news? Are their press releases? What about their social media? Is their philosophy and support of community or cultural issues a match for you?

Do you know anyone else who works there that can provide insight or background on the culture or work environment?

In preparing for the actual interview, anticipate what you might be asked. No doubt at some point be prepared to answer the question, “So why do you want to work here?” or “What inspired you to apply for our position?”  Your answer should be honest and thoughtful.  And prepared.  Think about this before you are interviewed.  Know what you are going to say.  When I hear someone ramble on or hem and haw it tells me they haven’t prepared and puts me on high alert that this is someone who is likely fishing for a job rather than engaged in a thoughtful career move.  It tells me a lot about their work style and what I might expect from them as an employee.

Inevitably the interview will turn to questions you might have of the interviewer.  Nothing says more to me about a candidate when they have no questions.  It tells me you haven’t thought about what it means to you to work in our organization.   Some things you might consider knowing about and asking about are:

Tell me about the management style of my department? 

If decide to come work with you, how will we measure success together in 30 days? In 90 days? 

Is this a new position or was there a vacancy?  If it is a vacancy will I overlap with the previous person to learn from them?

Finally, prepare yourself not just with questions and answers. If you are having an online interview, be sure to prepare the space. Make sure you will have quiet.  Think about your lighting and how you look online. No interviewer wants your cat walking through the screen or the dogs barking in the background.  Wear professional clothes and that you are groomed. And never interview buzzed or high. Take yourself seriously so the interviewer will take you seriously as well!

[i] Harvard Business Review , August 2014 , Tara Sophia Mohr,