Advice for Interviews: How To Do Brilliant Research

The second blog in my series on Interview Advice looks at how we should prepare for a job interview with the necessary research. 

It’s always good news you have the interview – probably the toughest part of the process is making your CV stand out sufficiently to be shortlisted as one of the lucky interviewees. But too many times I see potentially brilliant people muck up the next process, because they didn’t spend time doing the research. InterviewAdvice

So here’s some pointers on research, which will help you be much better in the interview:

RESEARCH THE COMPANY – You have to know this one, right? Everyone does this… surely? Sadly no. And it shows in interview. One of the first questions you will be asked in interview, is “So what do you know about our company?” – You need to know WHO they are, WHAT they do, and what makes them stand out in their field. So, read the website, get a good feel for the company and their direction.

WHY DO YOU WANT TO WORK FOR THEM? – You have to know WHY you want to work for them, and demonstrate an interest and enthusiasm in their products.

KNOW WHAT’S CURRENT  – Read their news on the website, Google the company for recent mentions, which may talk about awards, business deals, new board members, and product launches. Knowing this kind of stuff will give you more conversational confidence in the interview.

FOLLOW THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE – most companies will now have a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and very pertinently a YouTube profile. Make sure you follow them, and research the content of them. You will learn a lot about the personality of the business.

KNOW WHO IS INTERVIEWING YOU – You should do a little ‘stalking’ (in a good way!) on the people who are going to interview you. LinkedIn profiles, Twitter accounts, Google them and look at their career history to understand their own journey and perspective.

KNOW THE DRESS CODE – the dress-code thing is not so plain and easy any more. It used to be suit and tie for men and business dress for ladies – but now less companies dress in suit and ties – but then you don’t want to turn up in the t-shirt and jeans you painted your spare room in yesterday either (even if some people in creative agencies look like they go to work that way!!) Always check in advance with the recruiter or interview arranger, to make sure you get the tone right.

KNOW THE JOB ROLE – Make sure you read that job spec! Also, don’t be afraid to ask the recruiter; agency or in-house; some questions on what are the key components of the role, before the interview. You need to know this, to know how best to emphasis your experience to the content of the role.

PREPARE EXAMPLES – Be prepared with examples of when you have undertaken key components of the role. Read yesterday’s article for advice here.

KNOW WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT – do you have USPs? (unique selling points) Are there particular areas of skills you possess, which would make you particularly extraordinary for the role? Make them relevant and directly in tangent to the role, so for example – when we at CloudNine hired @LittleJessWood for a role with us, it became a distinct benefit to her application that she extended creative skills, website development and video editing etc. It meant she could do the role, sure – but also she could add value to us, because of her wider and relevant skill set.

WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU HAVE? – eeek!! It’s that question, where we clam up – because we realise we didn’t prepare sufficient questions and we have to respond with the inevitable ‘well you seem to have covered everything’!! Spend some quality time preparing questions about the role, the company, the people, the aspirations of the company, the profile of successful people within the business, how the company is handling current business challenges, questions arising from content on the website, clarification of certain matters relating to the company from the website… *and breathe* – the Interviewer WANTS to know that you are keen and inquisitive, and not appearing disinterested and lazy, and selfish. Don’t ask questions about lunch-breaks, holiday entitlement, salary, coffee allowance, sick pay leave, etc – these are in some cases negative questions, and the more pertinent questions around the package can either be handled later in the interview process, or should be been ascertained before the interview.  The quality of questioning tells the interview a lot about you.

So there are a few things to work on in the whole area of research and planning. Good research & knowledge leading into the interview makes for a more confident individual with the interview. You need to feel like; when you walk into the building; you kind of have a feel for the place and what they do – and where you fit in – already. It’s so much practical planning, but it has a dramatic effect on your mindset.

Feel free to suggest other areas you have found useful for interview planning.


Recruitment Dinosaurs… Missing the point.

On the train into the work this morning, I got chatting to a couple of ladies in their late 60s / early 70s. Lovely they were, smart ladies who used to be professionals – the conversation started from their amazement at my iPad – and it got them onto how they “worried about the internet world taking over”, and “Facebook and all that” will cripple communication and “kids will stop talking to each other”. 

I stood up for the accused, naturally. I retorted kindly, that actually the internet means that kids and adults alike can talk to more friends and people, as a consequence of the internet – allowing them to reach people they would otherwise never have the opportunity to do so – just through different methods – and different levels of conversation and communicative dynamics. Why does face to face have to be the `only` form of communications? In the past, connectivity was dependent almost solely on letter writing and message carrying. The written word has enormous value in the future communications also. Just with less ink…

I think they got my point, to my amazement. 


On the subsequent tube journey I chuckled to myself (hopefully not out loud!) how it reminded me of conversations I have with recruiters on LinkedIn, and otherwise. 

The `Dinosaur Recruiter` will stand puff-chested, and pronounce “I want to have conversations with actual people, on the telephone and in face to face – not on social media platforms, to faceless people!” – well, I say – go ahead. Go ahead making call after call to HR Manager answer machines, developing those touchy relationships you have with her electronic voice on the machine, and the net result of a day? – 10 actual connections including 7 who politely or otherwise saying `clear off`, maybe a meeting, and maybe conversations with a few candidates – and lots of answer machine messages. LOTS of answer machine messages. 

You are welcome to that, thank you very much – but mind out for the Ice Age… 


I unashamedly use social media as my primary communications channel. I also want to have conversations with actual people. In fact the stats tell me I do! – mentions, RTs, conversations, replies, and my own comments. Twitter mainly, partially LinkedIn & Facebook, and increasingly Google+. Every tweet/comment I send has a potential reach of 1000s… either directly, subliminally or indirectly. They take me to other communications formats. I meet more clients face to face than I ever did in the stone ages, and communicate with far more people on a day to day basis than I ever did. Social Media is a contact creator, not a deal maker – but it creates more contacts than a telephone ever will. 

The problem with the `Dinosaur Recruiter` is that they think only about now. Usually that’s not their fault – those who pay the wages are the problem – demanding instancy and interest in numbers that equate to ££s. Business building isn’t just about that. It’s about marketing the brand, being visible and accesible, it’s about forging relationships that last through mutual interest and sharing gems of information, and it’s about building reputation – which in turns into the simplest form of business gathering – recommendation and referral. 

I’m not talking about kicking in the `old` and leaving it behind – I’m talking about embracing what’s good about the past, and applying it to the way the customer is moving, and the market with it – being multi-dimensional. All good recruiters have `dinosaur tendencies` – the best ones prepare and adapt through the changes in climate. 

Come on recruiters, if a couple of elderly ladies can `get it`…?