Are You Over Preparing for the Interview?

Roger Lear  @rogerlear1

The ABC Series Modern Family had an episode last season where Phil Dunphy (the dad) is trying to sell a house.  

When the family finds out who the potential buyer is before the open house, Haley (the daughter) uses Facebook to customize the house to many of the things he likes. When the buyer shows up for the open house, he is amazed at all the things they have in common with the homeowners. However, things go south when they mention his dog by name and breed, freaking out the buyer. 

Can this type of thing happen in an interview?  Are you over preparing? The internet allows you to search to find out a lot about people.  Facebook itself has a power search bar that can find anyone in their database.  If the person you are looking for is not “locked down”, you can get all kinds of information on who they are, what they look like and what they like to do.  LinkedIn is also another great resource that allows you to look up potential hiring managers.  Information at your fingertips includes where someone went to school, their career progression, what they specialize in, likes, dislikes, hobbies and many interesting facts.  

The way you use this information is the key.  I had an interview with a young man a few weeks ago that actually gave me the idea for this article.  He was interviewing for an account manager position.  What made me a bit concerned is that he thought by reciting my biography since college, this was going to show that he did his interview research.  Even worse, he tried to tie all interview questions asked back to my own background and accomplishments.  It was very awkward.

Here are three things to consider when gathering information for your interview and how to use it:

1. Do more research on the company you want to work for rather than the person you are interviewing with.  Make sure you know how the company makes money and how the role you are interviewing for is related to profit.  Bring out your skills on how you will add to the bottom line by using real examples of your success at previous companies.

2. Researching the hiring authority is a good idea.  The only reason you want to do this is to get an idea of who this person is, where they came from and to find out if you have any common ground.  Most of this information you find will never come out in the interview.  Believe it or not, things like college and former employers are great common ground and the person interviewing you will probably bring that up themselves.  Never divulge any of the private information you find on a person in an interview situation.

3. In addition to researching the company, see if you can find any current employees (usually through LinkedIn) from that company.  This information can be valuable to see what backgrounds, companies, education and skill sets they have.  You can compare this to your own and it may help you form a great interview strategy.  (Again, don’t mention current or former employees in an interview.)

No matter what, make sure your research identifies the correct person and company.  A great line from the Modern Family episode:

Haley (researching a potential buyer): "Zack Barbie, born 1986, went to college at a place called Mit."

Alex: "M.I.T."

Haley: "I know how to spell it."

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