Nov 27
Before you interview for your dream job, do targeted research
Rick M

My friend Mark isn’t a big fan of what I call targeted interview research. He’s of the opinion that based solely on his innate social ability he’ll win over his interviewers and ultimately, get the job.

Unfortunately for Mark, interviewers are experts at seeing right through that sort of façade. A thoughtfully-crafted resume gets a foot in the door, but it is a candidate’s level of preparedness during the interview that closes it behind them.

Today’s applicant has access to incalculably large amounts of information about a target company, so showing up to an interview under-informed is a cardinal sin in employers’ eyes. It’s the interviewees who answer tricky, generic questions like “Do you have any questions for us?” with depth and sophistication that win jobs, not the ones with flashy smiles and shallow responses.

Targeted interview research means investigating the position you want, the company that’s offering it and, when possible, the people interviewing you. Having research on your side is a massive advantage: it shows an extraordinary interest; it gives you plenty to talk about; and it grants a massive confidence boost, just knowing you’re well-informed.

For further advice, we turn to Justin Hiscock, managing editor at, who advocates that “the key to giving a good interview is advanced preparation.”


Know what questions to ask

If you’ve had a job interview, you’ve heard this before: “Do you have any questions for us?”

Firstly, the wrong answer is always “no.” This is a crucial opportunity for applicants to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the company and its challenges. By asking a non-generic question, an applicant shows a genuine interest in the same issues his or her interviewers think about daily.

“Employers will almost always ask whether you have any questions,” Justin says. “Stay away from generic questions like ‘what’s it like to work here.’ Show that you’ve done some research and put some thought into the job. Ask about the pressures of a certain event, or how a specific part of their business operates.”

There are multiple avenues of information to be found about the employer online, from obvious places like a company website to review sites like Look for key insights about the company that match or complement your strengths and experience in some way.

“Know what [the employer] does and be able to speak confidently about it. Review the type of work you’d be doing – if you’re a nurse applying for a job where you’d be doing a type of injection you’re unfamiliar with, read up on it.”

The Internet gives applicants a variety of sources, but the best insider info is usually found through a company’s social media. This includes the usual suspects, like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. By regularly perusing a company’s social media pages, applicants can uncover goldmines of deeply specific information about a company’s strategy, beliefs, ideas, challenges, audience, attitude, and so on. It’s from this targeted interview research that insightful, researched questions can be formed.


At a company’s core is its people

It's tough to reach a hiring manager directly during the job application process. But if you make it to the interview stage, you can expect to be introduced to a few people---and that’s another opportunity for targeted interview research.

“If you know who’s interviewing you,” Justin says, “do some research.”

He doesn’t recommend any action that might come off as aggressive, like calling an interviewer before the interview. Google your interviewer to see if they have a web presence. Has your interviewer published articles? Do they have a strong social media presence? Can you find them on LinkedIn (without adding them)? Bring up what you learn in the interview, but only what’s relevant to the company and the position.

And if you don’t know your interviewer?

“Contact someone who works or has worked with the employer and ask for advice,” Justin says. “This advice goes double for new grads looking for their first job.”

LinkedIn is also an abundant source to be tapped for current and past employees of your target company. Finding and contacting current or previous employees of your target company there is easy and a common practice nowadays. Reach out with a friendly, brief message and you’ll find that most people are happy to reply with key insights to be used in the interview.

And one last point here: always send a follow-up email after the interview. It’s absolutely appreciated by your interviewer and shows class and maturity.


A common misconception is that once an interview is landed, the hard work is done. Although having a top-notch cover letter and resume unlocks doors, it’s in the interview where you show you can walk through them. Coming prepared with intelligent, perceptive questions and answers will prove that the polished and capable individual illustrated in your resume is genuine---and ready to start Monday!

Published in November 2016 by

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