How do you prepare for a job interview? Most people would say that we need to imagine which questions they are going to ask us during the interview. Thus, we should be ready to answer these questions. For example, there may be very specific technical questions, or we may be asked to describe our previous experience in similar roles.
Of course it is extremely important to be prepared to answer the questions they are going to ask us, but there is another very important aspect: we must get ready for the specific context of this interview. What do I mean by context?
- What are the specific requirements of the position you are applying to?
- For which department in the company is this position?
- Is this position associated with a specific product?
- What do you know about the company in general?
- Do you know who will interview you?
- Do you know how the company is structured?
- What do you know about the company’s products and services?
- Who are the company’s main customers?
Let’s discuss each one of these items below.
About the Position
First of all, before the interview, we must remind ourselves of the specific requirements of the position we are applying to. We probably have applied to many other openings in other companies, and each one of them had its unique requirements. Thus, before the interview, we should read the job description again and prepare accordingly. We must remember if this position demands any specific skill, or gives emphasis to some special technology.
About the Department
The position we are applying to is probably related to some specific department or division inside the company. Thus, before the interview, we should try to learn as much as possible about this department. For example, who is the manager? How many people work in this department? How important is this department for the company? Part of this information may be obtained by checking the company’s employees on LinkedIn.
About the Product
In some cases the position we are applying to is related to a specific product or service being provided by the company. Thus, before the interview, we should try to learn as much as possible about this product. What does the product do? What is the core technology being used in this product? For how long has this product been sold? What is the revenue that is being generated by this product? Some of this information may be obtained from the company’s marketing materials, or from the company’s blog or press releases.
About the Company
What can we know about the company in general? When was the company founded? Who were the founders? Who is in the C-level management team? Who is on the Advisory Board? Is this a private company or a public company? How many employees does the company have? Where are its main offices? How fast is the company growing? If it is a public company, what is happening with its stock? Most of this information should be publicly available, and it can be obtained by researching news items and press releases.
About the Interviewers
We should try as much as possible to know in advance who is going to interview us. If we are being invited to a session of interviews, which may have the duration of several consecutive hours, it is legitimate to ask for the detailed interview schedule. Very often the name of the person that is going to interview us can be obtained from the invitation that was sent to our calendar. In this case, we should research about this person on LinkedIn, learning about the interviewer’s role, background, education and personal interests.
About the Company Structure
It is very important to learn about the company structure, besides the specific department we are going to be interviewed for. What are the other departments and divisions inside the company? Are these different departments co-located or geographically dispersed? For example some companies may have an R&D team in one country and the Sales and Marketing teams located in different countries.
About other Products and Services
We should also try to learn about the other products and services being offered by the company, besides the one we are interviewing for. What are the most successful products and services? Which ones are generating the most revenue? Which ones are the most innovative? Were all these products developed by the company or are they the result of mergers and acquisitions? How strong are these products in relation to the competition?
About the Customers
It is interesting to learn about the clients that are consuming the products and services being provided by the company. Who are the company’s main customers? Is this a business to business (B2B) or a business to consumer (B2C) company? Is the company expanding into new markets? How fast is its customer base growing recently? Again, parts of this information should be publicly available in news items and press releases.
How to use all this information?
If you followed my advice above you did some intensive research and learned a lot about the company, its structure, its products and customers. You should also know exactly who is going to interview you, for which department, and for which product. How can you benefit from knowing all this information? There are several ways:
- Personal connection with the interviewer
- Relating this position to your previous roles
- Demonstrating your knowledge
- Making good questions
Let’s discuss each one below:
Personal Connection with the Interviewer
All the information you have learned about the interviewer can help you get much closer to him/her and generate potential conversation topics. For example, perhaps you have discovered that you and the interviewer have studied in the same college, or that you have worked in the past for the same company, or that you share some personal interests. These are opportunities to create a personal connection with the interviewer, which obviously you can benefit from.
Relating this Position to your Previous Roles
All the information you have learned about the position, and the respective department and product, may help you show how it is similar to previous roles you had in the past. For example, you can describe how in the past you have worked in the development of a very similar product, which used the same technology. Or you can say that you have worked for a company that operated in the same market with the same customer segment. These similarities certainly make your previous experience more relevant.
Demonstrating your Knowledge
You will probably have several opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge about the company during the interview. For example, if the interviewer is giving you some explanation about the company’s structure, this may be an opportunity to say: “I read that you have recently acquired startup company X” or that “I saw that you have recently opened new offices in Dubai”. These comments, if accurate, will certainly be very impressive.
Making Good Questions
In general, during the interview, the interviewer will give you the opportunity to ask your own questions about the role, the product or the company. This is an additional opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge. For example, you can say: “I saw that you are developing a new product Y and I’m very curious about its usage of Artificial Intelligence”. Such questions will also make a very good impression, but of course you should only ask questions if you are genuinely interested in knowing the answer.
The Bottom Line
If you follow my advice above, you will certainly be well prepared for the interview, and you will also have the opportunity to demonstrate that during the interview, causing a very good impression that will increase your chances to be hired. This level of preparation shows clearly that you are really interested in getting this job.
Actually, if you follow my advice above, you will certainly be an outstanding candidate, because most people are too lazy to do that. Good luck!