I’m sitting in front of an interview panel with six Environment Canada staff. The man in the suit at the centre of the panel asks me, “What are BC’s biggest environmental issues?”
My mind is blank, yet six pairs of eyes are staring at me to say something. “Er,” I stumble, “it rains a lot?”
The panel responds with tight-lipped smiles, thinking I am joking, but when they see I really don’t know, the mood in the room shifts substantially. As the man proceeds to outline our province’s true environmental concerns, I know the interview is over. But as a federal government process, they must continue to run through all the questions for the sake of equity. Needless to say, I want to die.
Because of that excruciating ordeal applying for my first co-op job 15 years ago, I never again failed to do my homework before an interview. In fact, I’ve found that research is often the best way to win at the job interview game. Here are five areas to explore before your big day:
1. The Organization
- Read their website, but go beyond the mission statement and review press releases to find out the latest news, look at organizational charts to understand their structure, and make sure you can talk about how their products or services meet people’s needs.
- Visit their location so you get a feel for the place and can pick up their brochures or annual report to study.
2. The Clients/Customers
- Think from the end user’s point of view. If you can read client reviews or connect with someone who’s been served by them, even better.
- If applicable, buy and try the organization’s products or try out their services and prepare your own (positively-framed) opinions to offer.
3. The People
- If you know anyone who knows someone in the company, track them down and ask them for coffee so they can give you an insider view.
- Use social media to find out more about the company’s staff. Check for profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter and try to make a connection.
4. The Issues
- What are the latest trends in the organization’s industry? What are the policies that govern their work? What challenges may they be facing? Scan the news, applicable blogs, and industry websites for clues.
- Don’t make my mistake! Know and be able to talk about the issues that the organization is dealing with.
5. The Job Description
- Dissect the responsibilities outlined and the skills required so you really understand what’s being asked.
- Create a chart listing everything they want and everything you can offer. Where there are gaps, make sure you have an idea of how you will get up to speed.
In the end, remember that all the research in the world won’t help if you don’t know how to work it into your interview. Practice, practice, practice - run through questions with a friend or the mirror and play with how to incorporate your research. Showcase what you know to prove your keen interest and that you are the person they want on their team. Good luck!