Whether it’s your first or fifteenth job interview, it’s good practice to do some research beforehand. That includes knowing any recent news about the company, like product releases, stock performance, upcoming releases, etc., to prove to your interviewer that you’re up-to-date and truly interested in the position.
But a really impressive job seeker will take this one step further and actually research the person who will be administering the interview. Creating rapport is vital to a successful interview, and if you’re armed with a few basic facts about the person on the other end of the phone (or other side of the conference table) you’ll be a step ahead of your competition.
Here are three tools to help you research your interviewer:
This should be fairly obvious, but not everyone uses the network as much — or as well — as they could. As soon as you know the name of the person interviewing you (which most companies will tell you a few days in advance), the first thing you should do is look him or her up on LinkedIn.
This network will give you a better understanding of what the interviewer’s job is so you know how you’d relate to him in your potential position. Will you be his assistant, peer, or on a different team altogether?
Look at her past employment, as well as her education. At the end of the interview, when she asks, “So do you have any questions for me?” you’ll be ready to respond with something like, “What made you decide to move from Company A to Company B?” She’ll be impressed that you know her history, and you’ll get a better idea of how your interviewer feels about the company.
Taking that one step further, it would be even better if you knew what other people had to say about this person. LinkedIn can be selective and squeaky clean at times, as you decide what is posted about you. But Newsle, a platform that lets you know when people make the news, will show you instances where your interviewer was mentioned in an online publication.
Maybe he was quoted in an industry blog; maybe he made a huge deal and helped his company expand into a new market. Whatever the case may be, look for opportunities to casually slip this knowledge into the conversation, especially if it directly relates to the company you’re applying for.
(On the other end of the spectrum, since the person doesn’t have as much control over what other people say about him, your interviewer could have ended up in the news for a less than honorable reason; steer clear of discussing stories like this.)
If your interviewer hasn’t made any news lately, follow someone higher up in the company; at this point in the job-hunting process, any and all knowledge will do you good. (Further reading: Check out even more ways to use Newsle in your job hunt.)
Moving away from more formal methods, you can see which blogs your interviewer reads — and whether you share interests — by peeking at her LiveFyre and Disqus profiles. These two popular comment plug-ins allow readers to log in with a social network of their choice to comment on blog posts. Because all their comments are compiled together, you can see everything they’ve commented on. Brilliant, right?
For extra brownie points, comment on some (not all — that would be overkill) of the same posts your interviewer has commented on, both before and after the interview. If she sees your name out there in the wild, she might recognize it and be more likely to consider you for the job, especially if you comment on industry-relevant blogs.
A word of caution
With all of this information about perfect strangers readily available on the internet, it is all too easy to cross the line between “dedicated & passionate” and become a “creepy stalker.”
If you happen to discover that your sister’s hairdresser is Foursquare friends with your interviewer’s cousin, and you manage to find a way to look at all of your interviewer’s check-ins, don’t say something like “I noticed you were at my favorite bar three weeks ago!”
And do not, I repeat, DO NOT add your interviewer on Facebook. It might be appropriate and even smart to follow him on Twitter (especially if his account is unlocked), but let’s keep things professional.
What other stealth methods do you use to research your interviewer?
Disclaimer: Part of the reason I know about the awesomeness of Newsle is because I work for a company of which Newsle is a client.