You received the call; the interview is set. Now it’s time to get down to the business of preparing for the interview. Your next step: research.

If you’ve listened to my advice in previous articles, you will already have a file or folder containing basic research you performed on the company before you made your application or sent your CV. It is now time to pull out that file and refresh your memory about the company and do a little more digging. Your research should be targeted at this point. You should already have a sense of what the company does and how it does it. The research you need to do now will be more precise.

Firstly, you now have more information. Your first task is to see if you can find any information about the person or persons you are to meet with at the interview. We will assume for simplicity’s sake that we are only dealing with one person at this point. Start with the company website. You should commit to memory the person’s formal job title and job functions, if it is available. If there is a detailed bio, print it out and put it in your file, highlighting important points. Pictures are also fabulous when available – you will be able to instantly recognise your interviewer as he or she walks through the lobby or waiting area.

Not all companies post information on their employees. If this is the case, try Googling the person’s name. Dig into their FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter or LinkedIn profiles and start taking notes. A word of caution: At the interview, do NOT say something like, “I see on your FaceBook page…” You don’t want to appear as a stalker. The intent in finding out more about this person is to outline common topics of interest that will bring about a sense of interest and familiarity about you from the interviewer. Don’t present common interests out of the blue: Wait for an appropriate opportunity or opening to bring it up. For example:

“Good day, Ms. Jones. I apologise for running a little late in my interviews today, but I just returned from a holiday in Italy and it’s hectic trying to get everything back to schedule!”

This is a perfect time to bring up your interest in traveling, for instance. It is important to note, however, that you should never fake interest in a topic. Your ignorance and embellishment will be noted. A better way to handle this would be to state you’ve always wanted to go to Italy, but have never had the chance to leave the country on holiday. Then inquire about the interviewer’s favourite experience on the trip.

Other topics you will want to research ahead of time include:

    Benefits offered
    Advancement opportunities
    Leadership structure
    Company culture

Knowing ahead of time what benefits are included will allow you to ask more pointed questions and not waste time during the interview. For example, you might say, “I see your company offers a pension programme and health benefits. Exactly when would I be eligible for those benefits if offered the position?” Similarly, you might also ask, “Which insurance programmes are available through your company?”

Researching other topics also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your interest and research skills. Some excellent questions to ask might include:

“I see Mr. Smith is the Vice President of Operations. Will I have any reporting duties to him in the Department Manager position?”

“Your company mission statement states your goal is to provide the best service throughout England. Are there any plans to expand the company into other areas of the UK or Europe?”

“Your company history shows that you have performed rather well despite the global recession. How do you plan to sustain this performance in the future?”

These types of questions speak volumes about your intelligence, your sincerity and your character. But you first have to do your research in order to know which questions to ask!

We will tackle more sample questions in our future series, Interview 201. In the meantime, we will continue to periodically tackle the basic interview steps needed to get the interview right before it even takes place.