Liz Ryan Contributor
The key to a great job interview is preparation.
As somebody who has interviewed thousands of candidates I can tell you that it is very sad to meet a candidate who is smart and friendly — but also, sadly unprepared for the interview.
When you ask a candidate, “What do you know about our company so far?” and their answer is, “Not too much, to be honest — just what’s in the job ad!” it’s a sad moment.
How can the candidate recover from that unfortunate start? They’ve already sent the message that they don’t care very much about the opportunity.
If the job is the kind of entry-level job people often take at the very start of their career, that’s one thing. A teenager doesn’t need to know the intricacies of Target’s corporate structure in order to do a great job as a Target cart attendant.
It’s different when you’re interviewing for a so-called Staff Professional role or any Knowledge Worker job. You have to do your research before the interview.
Your research not only equips you with information that will help you create the connection you want to make at the job interview (if it turns out that you like and respect the people you meet, and the job sounds interesting to you), although that is one benefit.
The other important reason to do your research before a job interview is to help you compose questions about the job.
There are certain things the employer needs to know about before they will hire you. There are certain things you need to know about the role and your prospective next boss, too — before you’ll know whether or not you want the job.
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You should plan on at least two hours of preparation time before an interview.
If that sounds like a lot, think about how many brain and heart cells you will invest in the job if you take it!
You need to know as much as possible about the people you’re thinking about working with — before the interview begins.
Here are 10 things you must bring with you to every job interview.
1. Extra copies of your resume.
2. A pad-folio with a notebook tucked inside it.
3. A good pen.
4. Printed directions to the interview location (in case you lose your connection).
5. Your questions for the interviewer, written out on your notepad.
6. Answers to 10 questions about the organization (you’ll learn these answers through your pre-interview research project):
- What does the company do?
- Who are its customers, and who are its chief competitors?
- How large is the firm?
- How old is it?
- Where does the company have locations?
- What is the job title for this job (from the job ad)?
- How do you think this job fits into the organization’s overall goals? (You’ll check this out with your interviewer.)
- Who owns the company? Is it publicly traded, or privately owned?
- What have you learned about the company by checking Glassdoor?
- Who are the people that run the company? What have you learned about them on LinkedIn and by reading the company’s website, newsletter or blog?
7. A hypothesis about the Business Pain your hiring manager is experiencing — the reason they ran the job ad and got approval to hire someone in the first place.
For instance, your hypothesis might be “I think these folks may need a new Regional Training Coordinator because they’ve opened up six new locations in the past 10 months. Undoubtedly some of their new hires are coming up the curve more slowly than others. That costs money and even customers. I’m going to probe to see if my hypothesis is correct.”
8. Powerful stories that illustrate your awesomeness at work, including at least a few of these:
- A story about a time you saved the day.
- A story about a time you had to work with a difficult person.
- A story about a time you had to go it alone without a manager’s direction.
- A story about a time you learned from a mistake.
9. Interview clothing that makes you feel powerful and amazing.
10. The mindset “I’m going to this interview to meet new people and learn new things. I don’t have to impress anyone. My job today is to stay cool and let these folks see my brain working. I want to see their brains working, too. If it’s meant to be a match, then it will be. If it isn’t, that’s fine too!”
It can be hard to keep yourself from groveling and basically begging for the job when you need money, and almost everyone has been there.
It will help you to remember that you got the interview already — and getting the interview is by far the hardest part of getting a job.
If these folks like you and your background well enough to interview you, other companies will too. You are not desperate, even if the rent is almost due. You are mighty. You have to see it first before anyone else will!
A version of this article appears in https://www.forbes.com