Want to know the quickest way to end an interview early? When the hiring manager asks you, “So tell me what you know about our company,” just stare at her blankly, and then make up a bunch of bullshit. (True story: a newly minted MBA we know was in and out in five minutes.)
If you think you’re too busy in your current job to do your homework, you’ll stay busy in your current job for a long time to come. Because you’re missing a golden opportunity to impress the hiring manager, set yourself apart from your fellow job-seekers, and (no less important) get under the hood and see if a company is really for you (or if they’ve just fired their whole management team, missed a key launch date, and delayed their IPO for the third time).
The best part is that it’s just not that difficult to be the golden boy or wonder girl when it comes time to wow the interviewer with how much you know. Here’s how to get your investigation underway …
It’s the Internet, stupid.
That series of tubes has vast amounts of information. Every interviewer is expecting you to do some digging on them: if they find you haven’t bothered, you’re toast. Scour the company website from top to bottom, spending a lot of time on their “About Us” and “Press” pages — these info-packed sources are an especially important place to find out about new product and earnings numbers. The “Jobs” or “Careers” pages can also be useful for giving hints about directions the company is or will be heading. And assume that anything on the top-level pages of the website is fair game for being discussed during and after the interview. Download any recent white papers you can get your hands on, and read everything you can about them on major news sites as well as industry-specific ones (for tech and social media, don’t miss TechCrunch and Mashable).
Be a good sleuth.
You need to do a background check on the company. Set up a Google Alert on them and their direct competitors (once you research who they are). Then hit up Google News and videos for extra scoop. LinkedIn makes it darn near impossible not to get backgrounds on the people you’ll be meeting with. But this is not a time to network! Don’t ask someone to be your Facebook friend or connect with you on LinkedIn before the interview. And if you happen to find out something personal about them — for instance, that their dog died recently — don’t bring it up in the interview, lest you look like a stalker. (Sigh … the dead dog thing is, sadly, another true story.)
It’s a two-way street.
This isn’t just about impressing the interviewer with the quality of your research. You’re a grown-up now in your career, and you should be hiring your prospective new boss and company just as much as they are hiring you. Compile a list of questions you want to ask to clarify what you’ve found out, and formulate your own opinions about the company’s strategy and prospects.
And if you’re not sure you like what you see in the course of your digging, don’t cancel the interview. Go in there, ask the tough questions (diplomatically, of course), and see where the conversation goes.
Remember, once you’ve landed the interview, you know that your accomplishments are interesting to the company. In some ways the tough part is done. One of your biggest challenges is not to blow yourself up by bobbling the basics. If you really want to crush your competition for a job, do your homework. Most candidates blow it off or try to wing it. If you come in prepared, it’ll show and give you a big leg up.