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Do Your Homework Before the Big Interview

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Acing your next job interview is all about the prep work

Job interviews are intimidating. Full stop. It doesn’t matter how many years’ experience you have (or if you have none at all), nobody feels perfectly calm before the questions start. To nab a great job, though, you’ll need to wow a hiring manager—and that means some strategic interview preparation is in order.

So, how do you prepare for the big audition? Put simply, it’s about doing your homework.

Job candidates need to gather relevant information about the position, the company, the industry, and the interviewer. Arming yourself with that kind of intel will give you an edge over other job candidates.

Here are seven steps to compile the information you need to make a great impression.

Study the employer’s website

Your prospective employer’s website is the perfect starting point for interview preparation. Look at the organization’s mission statement (often outlined on the “about us” page), and consider how the job to which you’re applying can contribute to that mission.

Also, look for a “press room” or “company news” page, where you can read up on recent news coverage and press releases to gain timely insight into what’s happening at the organization and what their current goals are.

Photos of employees on the company’s website can also help you determine how to dress for the job interview. If everyone is wearing business suits, you should dress formally for the interview; if people are wearing T-shirts, though, business casual is probably fine.

Read news coverage of the company

Google the company to see what’s being written about it by general-interest and business publications. Applying for a job at a small business? Check out media coverage in local news outlets to learn about how the company interacts with the community.

Check out trade journals

Reading trade journals and other industry publications can help you drill deeper into a company and learn more about the challenges it’s facing. To do an extensive search, though, you’ll want to get several months’ worth of relevant trade journals, says Ron Fry, author of 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions.

You may find hard copies of trade journals at university or public libraries. Trade publications are also available through periodical databases such as ProQuest. (See if membership to your local library grants you free access to ProQuest.)

Get someone on the inside

What better way to learn about a company than from its employees? Connecting with workers at your target company can give you insider knowledge, such as what it’s like to work at the organization, business initiatives, and background on the hiring manager. Don’t have any direct or mutual connections to these employees? “If you belong to a professional organization, go to its directory,” says Marilyn Pincus, job-search coach and author of Interview Strategies that Lead to Job Offers.

Brush up on the key players…

Gathering information about the company’s executive team can provide you with valuable insight for a job interview. So, in addition to reading the bio pages of the CEO, department directors, and other company brass on the business’ website, check out these executives’ social media feeds to see topics they’re posting about.

…and the job interviewer

Knowing your audience is crucial, which is why it’s important to gather as much information about the hiring manager—and any other people on your interview dance card—as possible. (Note: The recruiter setting up your job interview can give you the names and job titles of the interviewers.)

Try to find common ground by Googling the interviewer to learn more about their professional background, education, and clubs or organizations they belong to. Maybe you worked for the same employer, or you both played lacrosse in college, or you have another shared passion. Having that information at your disposal can enable you to form a bond with the hiring manager during a job interview.

Zero in on the company’s culture

You’re not only investigating the hard facts about a company; you also want to get a feel for what the culture is like. Cultural fit is important for both employers and employees. In fact, one recent survey found that nine in 10 recruiters have rejected candidates due to their lack of cultural fit.

Paul Thallner, an executive culture consultant at Great Place to Work, a global advisory and research firm based in San Francisco, likens job interviewing to dating: “You’re assessing whether you and the company are a good match,” he says.

To get the real scoop on a company’s culture, check out Monster’s company review page, chat up current and former employees, and check out the company’s social media pages, which can give a glimpse into the organization’s overall tone.

Sharpen your interviewing skills

Doing interview prep work is a must, but you don’t have to tackle your job search on your own. Join Monster for free today. As a member, you’ll get interview tips, career advice, and job search tips sent directly to your inbox to help you become a top-shelf candidate. You’ll learn the ins and outs of salary negotiation, getting a promotion, and even how to land a higher-paying job. Let Monster show you how to leave a positive, lasting impression on every employer you meet.