Question: I was working with my mentor on interview prep for a new job, and they asked what I knew about the hiring manager I’d be meeting. How am I supposed to know the interviewer before I meet them?
Answer: It sounds like you have a smart mentor! Yes, you should know about the interviewer, the company, the job and the industry before you even enter the job interview.
Let’s look at how to gather intel so you’re prepared and ready to meet the interviewer and position yourself well:
1. Research the Company.
Look at the company’s website and social media pages (include LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram company profiles). You’ll get a view of what the company promotes, the business and industry it is in and people and products it is highlighting. Make a list: Write down any red flags or troubling information you find. This will help you decide whether the interview still makes sense to pursue, or if you just need clarification that you can get in the conversation. Also, list out areas where your values specifically align with what the company believes and is pursuing. Finally, add to the list questions that arise for you as you’re doing this research.
2. Research the Interviewer.
Look at their LinkedIn profile and in particular review their About and Experience sling with any recommendations they’ve received. What do you learn about how this person has grown their career, what they’re passionate about and where they’re headed?
In reviewing their recommendations, do you get a glimpse into the interviewer’s personality? For example, if several people describe them as “fun, upbeat and outgoing,” that can give you a sense of how they might behave when you meet them. Next, see whether the interviewer has any other public online profiles. A Google search can show you whether they’re active on Instagram, Twitter, Medium, etc., and if the accounts are public, look at the kinds of content they share and what they’re interested in. Make a list: Write out key areas you’ve learned about the interviewer from their online profiles. Do you have any experiences, connections or education in common? Do you share a passion for advancing climate initiatives or solving complex global housing challenges? Are you both children of immigrant parents? Write down any commonalities you share.
3. Talk to People.
Talk to your mentor, networking contacts and other people you know in common with the interviewer (you can find them on LinkedIn, for example). Ask them what they can share that will give you insight into how the interview might go, what this person cares about and what they’ll be listening for in your responses. Make a list: Write out what you learned from others. Is their feedback consistent with what you found online?
4. Find the Connections.
With your research and lists in hand, now identify the similarities. Where do you and the company share common goals, interests, experiences and concerns? Do these connections now reveal questions you could ask in the interview or issues you might face if hired? Where does your experience (in the military and afterward) align with the goals and objectives the company is focused on? Next, overlap your interests, skills, goals and passions with those of the interviewer. What do you see? Are there a lot of commonalities or more dissimilarities? This will help you gauge how the interview might proceed and where you can shore up your side of the conversation to make a positive impression.
5. Prepare for the Interview.
Now, get ready to meet this person you already know a lot about. You have a sense of what they care about and how long they’ve been in their field and with the company, as well as the kinds of candidates the company seeks.
Use this information to build rapport at the outset of the interview. Mentioning, “I see from your LinkedIn profile that you went to the University of Maryland. I also took classes there before transferring to the University of Michigan. What did you think of your time there?” or “Seems you and I share an interest in helping animal rescues. Have you personally owned a rescue pet or fostered?” If the information you found was publicly available, consider it safe to mention.
Develop thoughtful questions. Consider what your research told you and what questions might be helpful to know more about if you were to pursue employment. Do you want to know more about the company’s community service projects or “promoting from within” philosophy? Write your questions down in advance of the interview.
Go in confident and clear. With what you’ve learned, consider that you’re meeting someone who’s no longer a stranger. You know some things about them, and this should enable you to feel more confident about your interview and clear about how you see yourself fitting into the role and the company.
A job interview should not feel like meeting a complete stranger. If you have the name(s) of the interviewer(s) in advance, become as prepared as you can about them, the company and how best to influence the conversation.
The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty” (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication and reputation risk management.
A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.
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