I interview close to 100 candidates annually, and I cannot begin to tell you how many interviews have gone sour because the candidate was not prepared. Most of the time, candidates ask too many questions to which the answers are publicly available—as in, on our website or via a quick Google search. Trust me: Nothing is more frustrating than having to tell our story 100 times to them.
Save your interviewer the frustration, and up your chances of landing the job with one simple solution: When you’re preparing for your interview, do your research!
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We live in an age of information and transparency. Unless you have been living under a rock—in which case, please don’t apply—candidates can find a wealth of information about the prospective employer beforehand.
Don’t know where to start? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Learn the Basics
At a bare minimum, you should be able to gather the vital stats on the company you’re meeting with. Finding these should give a snapshot of what the shop is like, and keep you from taking up your precious interview time asking questions you should really already know the answers to.
As soon as you schedule your interview, you should bone up on the following:
- Number of years in business
- Number of employees
- Number and location of offices
- In the case of an agency, the client roster (wins and losses)
- Type of work that’s done there
These are just the fundamentals. If you really want to ace the interview, use the wealth of publicly available information to get the upper hand.
2. Dig Deeper
Check out the usual social media and web sources, and be thorough.
Don’t stop at the LinkedIn company page. Go further and look at people that hold the same role you are applying for. What’s their background? How are they describing their role?
On Glassdoor, you can find out salaries, interview questions and company reviews. You’ll find negative as well as positive reviews, but you can use the information in negative reviews to identify pain points and challenges—and then bring up your relevant experience on how to meet the challenge.
Most media companies and agencies love to talk about themselves (after all, we are all in marketing). Spend some time going through their social channels—Facebook, Twitter—to look for cool events they do, recent wins and good company news. Anything you can mention or congratulate on will go a long way.
If the employer is part of a holding company, familiarize yourself with the parent company and sister agencies. Understand their role in the network and what it means for your position. And if you are applying to a publicly traded company, make sure you listen to their latest earnings calls. Understand priorities, challenges and investments. This is less relevant for more junior roles, but it never hurts to know.
3. Rehearse Your Talking Points
All this research is great, but you also need to know how to use it. Be creative; don’t just regurgitate what you read. Use it to ask better questions like, “How has the merger with XYZ changed the culture?” or “Congratulations winning XYZ; how has the transition been going?” Ask smart questions that show you understand not only the industry but also the employer’s place in it.
There is nothing wrong with treating an interview like any campaign. Do your research into the audience: What do they want and need, what are their pain points, why would they hire you?
Then create a message and story that appeals to their needs. If you can sell me in an interview, I’ll be confident about your ability to help our clients sell their products.
Benjamin Spiegel is CEO of MMI Agency, Houston.
If you’re ready to hone your interviewing skills, consider getting the help of a pro. Mediabistro’s Career Services offer everything from a mock interview to several sessions of career counseling to tackle interview and networking skills, career transition and more.