DO AS MUCH RESEARCH AS POSSIBLE on the organization and job position. Never go in for an interview without having a sense of what the position entails and how the company operates. Some people send out so many resumes that they may not even remember exactly what it was they applied for by the time they get the call back to set up an interview. If you are applying to a lot of positions, it helps to keep track of this information in a document so you always have a reference to consult. Start by finding the original job posting, and review the description of the position. Not enough information? – Try searching for similar job position postings with other companies – you may even discover new job leads as well.
Your prospective employer wants to believe that you targeted your job search specifically for them – that you want to work for their company in that specific position. Being educated on what the position typically entails will help prove this to them. A good resource for learning what a general position’s responsibilities is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/). Of course, this only gives you a general guide to that position – every employer has different expectations of their own. And if you want to look up average salaries for that position, head to https://www.glassdoor.com/.
Remember, you don’t need to know everything about the position on day one. No one is born knowing how to work at a specific job; it will take training, practice, and a lot of experience. Businesses look for people who are trainable – they want to find someone who is a good fit for the organization and is capable of learning new things. So don’t be afraid to cast a wide net and look for things you may not necessarily have thought you’d be capable of doing. Job skills are often transferable between different positions and lines of work. No one grows their career by sticking with the same thing their entire life!
Once you’ve gotten a sense of what the position entails, research the company itself. Look under the “About Us” page to get a little understanding of the company’s history. Look for any press releases to get an idea of what the company has been doing recently. Search for the company on news aggregator websites like http://news.google.com/ and read any related articles. You might not be able to figure out everything about the company, but a basic understanding of its organizational structure and recent projects should give you some good questions to ask in your interview. Your prospective employer will appreciate that you show interest in working for their specific organization and have at least a basic understanding of it – you will definitely have a leg up already over your competition.
Research the competition too. Applying for McDonalds? It will help to know what next, new thing Burger King is doing with their Whopper. Ask yourself what does company “A” do differently than company “B”? What specific talents and capacities can you contribute to help them grow and advance their mission? You’ll have the opportunity to talk about this when you finally get to the interview. Get a general lay of the land of the industry too. Is it thriving or is it declining? You’ll find that there is a wide variety of different kinds of corporate cultures, based not just on individual companies, but also in specific industries. There’s a lot of difference between working in the tech sector versus working, say, in the coal mining industry, even if the job position titles seem practically identical. Do you expect your workplace to have ping-pong tables, a nap room, and an in-office bar? – Or do you expect a more traditional, disciplined working environment? Knowing these things in advance will help you better tailor your interview and market yourself effectively as the best fit for the organization. Remember that managing expectations is key to succeeding in just about any kind of relationship – your employer needs to know what they can expect out of you, and you need to know what you can expect out of your employer.