Informational Interviews: A ‘How to’ Guide

Informational Interviews: A ‘How to’ Guide

When you are considering a career change, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the unknown quantity of what may lie ahead. You may be attracted to a particular career path or industry, but feel hesitant about committing to the journey when you are uncertain about the terrain.

It’s natural to feel indecisive and a little afraid when making any kind of change, but these are feelings we need to overcome to avoid getting and staying stuck.

So, how can we reduce this uncertainty and overcome our fears? We need to take control of the situation. One way to increase confidence is to master the unknown by gathering and using information.

One approach to consider is an informational interview. This powerful tool can give you the information and insight you need to make an informed and appropriate career decision.


What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is a fantastic source of data that can help you to decide and validate your next career move. An exploratory meeting with someone who is already in your target role or industry, it allows you to hear about the role straight from the horse’s mouth.

The purpose of this exercise isn’t to secure a job. Your aim is to find out as much as you can about a potential career path, before committing to it. An informational interview with the right person can be a valuable shortcut, fast-tracking your knowledge and helping you to decide if you are setting off on the right path.


How to arrange an informational interview

To make the most of the experience, cherry pick the person you’d like to interview. Perhaps you already know someone who is working in your desired role or industry. If so, call them up and ask for an hour of their time.

If the person you’d like to talk to isn’t in your immediate network, now is the time to get to know them. Find them on LinkedIn, and send a personalised invitation, giving some background on your situation and outlining your interest in their work. Explain that you’d love to sit with them for 30 minutes or an hour, when their schedule permits, to understand more about their role. Offer to buy them a coffee, and make it as easy as possible for them to accept your invitation by flexing to their schedule and location. This may mean meeting at their office, or near a client site; be prepared to travel.

If there’s no immediate response, follow up with a telephone call a week later. If you have sent an email in advance, they are likely to have read your message and will understand why you are calling.


Preparing for your meeting

Once the date is in the diary, you can begin to prepare for your informational interview. The key to making the most of your airtime is to ask great questions. Start off by brainstorming everything you could possibly want to know about the person’s role, industry, and career. You can then begin to whittle down your question list.

The time you have secured is precious, and you won’t want to waste it by asking obvious questions, so spend time researching online before the interview. Revisit your contact’s LinkedIn profile and company web pages. Google their name and job title for recent news and even set up a Google Alert to stay abreast of new stories. The questions that remain unanswered, after you’ve mined the internet, can stay on your list for the interview.

The questions you ask should be insightful, demonstrating keen interest in and motivation for your target career. Ultimately, the answers you seek will give you a competitive edge over other candidates, an inside understanding of the industry you wish to join.

If you get stuck, think about what it is that this person can tell you, that you can’t glean from other sources. Often, it will be their story, their experiences, and their challenges that will provide the most insight. Here are some example questions, that will hopefully trigger some of your own:

  • How did you first get into this?
  • What part of your role do you feel has the biggest impact?
  • What is the most important part of your role?
  • What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?
  • What is your biggest career achievement to date?
  • How do you measure success in your role?
  • What are the most important relationships for your role?
  • If you had more hours in your day, what would you do more of?
  • How has your role or industry changed since you started?
  • How do you maintain and refresh your professional skillset?
  • What advice would you give to a newcomer to the role or industry?

It can be useful to order your questions, allowing you to develop the conversation in a logical and progressive way. Also, be careful not to break rapport by asking potentially intrusive questions too early.


Making the most of your moment

On the day of the interview, you could arrive early and base yourself nearby to run over your questions. Ideally, you’ll aim for a free-flowing conversation, rather than a stilted Q&A session, but it’s still handy to keep your list of questions close as an aide-memoire. Taking copious notes in the interview will make it hard to give your full attention, so instead immerse yourself in the experience and listen actively and attentively with all your senses. You can capture the gold dust soon after.


Capture the gold dust

After the interview, find a quiet space – in your parked car, on the train, or in a café – and jot down what you have learned. Take a notebook and pen with you for this purpose, and spend as long as you need to capture your findings. You might start with broad subject headings, then flesh out the content as your conversation comes flooding back. If you prefer, record yourself using your phone, you can always transcribe it later.

It’s well worth taking the time to do this. You may think you’ll remember the conversation, but over time it’s likely that you will forget. Also, as you learn more about your target role, you can revisit your notes and uncover new gems of information that you can access with new understanding.


Follow up with a thank you

After the interview, follow up with a thank you. The person you interviewed has been kind enough to send the ladder back down, and this deserves recognition and thanks. Saying that, simple and sincere is the best approach, rather than gushing, over-the-top gratitude. You can write a thank you email, a LinkedIn message, or even post a handwritten note – a good way to stand out.


Connect and nurture the relationship

Now you’ve forged or warmed up this relevant connection, be sure to nurture it. Invite the person to connect via LinkedIn, follow their updates, and keep in touch. Maintain a professional relationship and demonstrate interest, but avoid stalker-like intensity.


Reflect on the experience

After a couple of days, think back on your experience. Read over your notes, and engage in a free-writing exercise to capture what you gained from it. This will help you to assimilate your learning, and to map out next steps. Are you any closer to making your decision? What else do you want or need to know? Who might you want to interview next to meet your information needs?


Informational interviews are a practical way to understand more about a target role and industry, and can help you to make an informed and confident next step. Use them in conjunction with networking, independent research, and professional training to develop your knowledge, skills, and connections, ready for your next career move.

How I spectacularly overslept for my job interview (but still got the job)

How I spectacularly overslept for my job interview (but still got the job)

Those of you who know me will know that this blog title is by no means a brag.  I am the world’s worst worrier, and actually a bit of an old school square.  It is not in my makeup to leave things to chance.  I am Mrs On-It-and-All-Over-It, Mrs Well-Prepared-But-Lacks-Spontaneity, and many other names that my so-laid-back-he’s-horizontal husband calls me, in jest, which I wouldn’t like to repeat.

However, once upon a time, about 20 years ago, I applied for a job that I really wanted and then spectacularly overslept for the interview.  Here’s what happened.

Life before the interview

I was a second-year undergraduate at the University of Liverpool, recently relocated from Morton House halls of residence to a decrepit old flat on Greenbank Road, just off the infamous Smithdown Road.

Every day, on my way to lectures, I passed this quaint café, the Dormouse Tearooms, located above a fancy dress shop.  One morning (or was it afternoon, I forget), when passing, I noticed a job advertised in the window and, though I don’t remember doing so, I must have submitted my CV.  The next thing I knew, I had been offered an interview.

The night before the interview

I was really excited and even turned down the opportunity to go out the night before my Saturday morning interview.  I retired to bed early, set my alarm, and dreamt sweet dreams of serving tea to real life Liverpudlians, whilst wearing full Victorian costume (this part was a reality of the job!).

Then disaster struck.  In the small hours of the morning, a drunk friend of my housemate woke me by banging loudly at the front door.  Though I gave the individual short shrift, it took a fair while for them to get on their way, back to the bright lights and many bars of Smithdown Road.

The morning of the interview

The next thing I knew, light was streaming in through the curtains and someone else was persistently knocking at the front door.  Realising that I had massively overslept, I leapt out of my futon with the long since forgotten agility of youth, ran frantically down the stairs and opened the door to my would-be interviewer.  I was over an hour late for the actual interview!

I can now picture the interviewer in my head, waiting, waiting, waiting, then deciding there was nothing for it, she was going to have to come and physically knock on my door and find out what was delaying me.  Rather than being ready, smart, clean, tidy, I was in a state of total disarray, making the worst possible first impression.  What must she have thought!

I profusely apologised, promised to be at the interview in record time, and managed to compose myself enough to attend and recover the situation.  Unbelievably, at the end of all of this drama, I was offered the job.  It turned out to be a dream job for a student and, to me now, it represents a very happy time in my life.

After the interview

My interviewer, Amanda, became a heart-warming and lifelong friend.  She well and truly took me under her wing.  Each Saturday that I worked, she cooked me a lunch that students can only dream of.  She often invited me to her home, and even sent me back to my flat with supplies, to make sure I was fed throughout the coming week.  Many years later, she attended my wedding in Ireland, and has kept in touch with cards and letters ever since.

I recently asked Amanda why she gave me a second chance.  She couldn’t even remember me being late!  She wrote, “God, girl, I am getting old.  I can’t remember it, but I am glad I did.  You were the best of all the girls she had working for her.”  I am pretty sure that she embellished that last part, but the point is that my misdemeanour quickly faded from memory, replaced by what I did next, ranging from eating her out of house and home, through to sobbing my heart out at our work night out to see Jerry McGuire at the cinema.


There are two morals to my story.  The first is not to give up when things go wrong.  A mistake doesn’t need to define you.  If you act quickly and show commitment, there should be plenty more opportunities to create a new perception of yourself.  The second moral is to invest in a good alarm clock.

Smart tips for interview success: Part 3 – After the interview

Smart tips for interview success: Part 3 – After the interview

This week concludes our three-part blog series: smart tips for interview success.  Our third and final blog in the series focuses on what you can do AFTER your interview to position yourself for success.

In case you missed parts 1 and 2 in the series, you can link to them here:

Smart tips for interview success: Part 1 – Before the interview

Smart tips for interview success: Part 2 – At the interview



How and when should candidates follow up after a job interview?


Leo Face Pic“Ideally, make sure that you check with the interviewer when they will let you know. This will give you a good indicator of if and when you may need to follow up. 1 – 2 weeks after the interview is usually a good ball park figure. Personally I would prefer an email or letter as the method of correspondence. A phone call can catch an employer off guard or at a bad time, whereas an email or letter can be dealt with at their own convenience.”


Leo Woodhead, Careers Advisor.  Contact via Twitter @thecareersblog


Logo - Signature 2013“The follow up to the interview can vary depending on the format of the organisation. If arranged via an agency, the candidate should phone their contact after the interview confirming the interview has taken place and give honest and professional feedback on how they feel about the job and the interview. The agency will contact the company and have a similar conversation with the interviewer and should then feed this information back to the candidate.

Interviews that have taken place following a direct application are dependent on the information the interviewer has given the candidate. If they had said a timeframe for the interview process and getting back to candidates, then this should be respected.

If no time frame has been given, I would suggest around a week, before giving a follow up call to the company.

If a candidate learns they have been unsuccessful in landing the job, it is perfectly acceptable for them to make a follow up call or send an e-mail requesting feedback on their interview.”

Pamela Hopkinson, Jobs in Food Manufacturing.  Contact via Twitter @JobsinFoodMfr



Does sending a ‘thank you’ letter give candidates an edge over their competitors?


Leo Face Pic“Sending a well worded and friendly ‘thank you’ letter can help to remind an interviewer of who you are. They might even have a closer look at your CV or have a little look over their interview notes again. All this puts you at the forefront of their mind and helps you to stand out from the crowd. If it’s well received it can help to show you’re professional side. Employers need professionals that can help their business run smoothly. Making that extra effort shows that you know how to communicate in a business setting and that can make a real difference when it comes to their final decision!”

Leo Woodhead, Careers Advisor.  Contact via Twitter @thecareersblog



Don’t call us, we’ll call you.  How long should a candidate leave it before following up after an interview?

reem“If you have the interviewer’s email address I think it is always a nice touch to email them after the interview to thank them for their time and to confirm that you are still very interested in the role.  Keep your email short but sweet, there is no need to go over every point from the interview.  If you haven’t received any feedback within three to four days I would recommend calling to see if there is any further progress with your application.”

Vicky Pachner, Director, Reem Recruitment.  Contact via Facebook.



What is a reasonable timeframe for a candidate to take to consider a job offer?


logo_medium“This is very much dependent on how you came across the vacancy.  If this was your dream job; and you worked hard to secure the interview opportunity, it shouldn’t take you very long at all to decide whether you want to take the job or not.

If the role involves wider changes (e.g. a relocation, or extensive travel) to your lifestyle, you may need to have a conversation about it with your family.

However, this information is unlikely to surface for the first time at interview, and very likely to have been talked about in principle at an earlier stage in the process.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t take too long.  If you’ve followed our earlier advice about never walking out of the door scratching your head, you should be able to reliably follow your ‘gut’ instinct.  Never make the mistake of assuming you’re the only option on the table (you’re NEVER the only option, and you can rest assured they’ll be keeping other candidates warm in the meantime) so give yourself a maximum thinking time of 24 hours before responding with your answer.  A night to sleep on it usually brings a huge deal of clarity anyway.”

Tim Burns, Managing Director, GPRS Recruitment.  Contact via Twitter @gprsrecruitment



What kind of references should a candidate to be ready to provide?


svlogo2“You should be able to provide at least five years of employment references, if you are a graduate, and haven’t been working for that long, then provide personal references. These should be given by tutors or professionals you have a strong association with, not family or friends.  It doesn’t matter if your professional references aren’t in the same field as the jobs you may be applying for. They are there to guide prospective employers on your working capabilities including timekeeping, ability to handle pressure and performance.”

GradQuiz Contact via Twitter @GradQuiz

Smart tips for interview success: Part 2 – At the interview

Smart tips for interview success: Part 2 – At the interview

Following on from last week’s blog, this week we continue Giraffe CVs’ three-part blog series: smart tips for interview success.  This week’s blog, part two in the series, focuses on what you can do during your interview to position yourself for success.

We consulted with a number of recruitment and employability experts; asking them for inside advice and interview tips to help you succeed during your interview.  We hope you enjoy their answers.



First impressions count.  What makes a candidate tick your boxes when they enter the interview room?


Logo - Signature 2013“The first impression should be of someone who is smart and appropriately dressed. They walk in with confidence, have a firm handshake and make good eye contact.

All of these things go towards making a good initial impression.”


Pamela Hopkinson, Jobs in Food Manufacturing.  Contact via Twitter @JobsinFoodMfr


gogetter“Wearing a smart outfit, making eye contact, and smiling.  It is important to show some enthusiasm – meaning that you want to be there and are interested in the job.  I have heard about people who have turned up to the job interview, not showing interest and not presenting their best self.

Remember to be yourself, as the interviewer will want to know about the person with whom they will be interacting and find out if they will fit with the team.”

Sophia Husbands, GoGetterMe.  Contact via Facebook or Twitter @GoGetterMe


reem“This is so important.  I can’t tell you how much it frustrates me and my clients when candidates turn up not suitably dressed.  Unless you have being advised otherwise, you need to dress formally.  I would always recommend wearing a matching jacket and trousers/skirt.  Make sure everything is perfect: your tie is straight, your shirt is ironed and your shoes are clean.  These may seem like minor details but they can tell an employer a lot about you.

Make sure you are prepared as soon as you walk into the building or office.  Know who you are there to meet and greet everyone you meet with a friendly attitude.  Although you may not be interviewing with those people, your interview begins as soon as you walk in the building.  Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake and thank them for taking the time to see you.”

Vicky Pachner, Director, Reem Recruitment  Contact via Facebook.


How can the interviewee ensure their interview is a two-way process?


Leo Face Pic“The most important thing is to have some questions of your own. Not having any questions at all makes you either seem uninterested in the process or so desperate for the job that you’re too nervous to ‘rock the boat’! An interview is an opportunity for both parties to see if the company and position will work for them.

Focus on questions that show you are interested in both your own development and the future of the company.

Avoid asking any questions that you could easily find an answer to in the job spec or company website and stay away from the usual clangers of asking about benefits or holidays.”

Leo Woodhead, Careers Advisor.  Contact via Twitter @thecareersblog


svlogo2“During a job interview you will more than likely be given a number of chances to ask some questions, so it’s a great idea to have some prepared in advance.  This is a great way of making an interview a two-way process.  Here are some examples:

What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?

What kind of work can I expect to be doing in the first year?

What are some of the skills and abilities necessary for someone to succeed in this job?

What percentage of routine, detailed work will I encounter?

How much opportunity will I have for decision making in my first assignment?

How will my leadership responsibilities and performance be measured?”

More questions are detailed on StudentVine/GradQuiz Contact via Twitter @GradQuiz


What are the key non-verbal actions and characteristics to be mindful of?


Logo - Signature 2013“Interviews can be very stressful and the trick is to come across as calm. Walk confidently into the interview room, with your head held high and make eye contact with all of the interviewers taking part and give a firm handshake.

Sit down in a position that is most likely to be comfortable for a long period of time to ensure you do not have to keep repositioning yourself, but do not slouch! Keep hands folded together in your lap and do not fidget.

If you are being interviewed by a panel, try to respond directly to the individual that asked a specific question, but intermittently also look across to the other interviewers to maintain a sense of inclusion and conversation.”

Pamela Hopkinson, Jobs in Food Manufacturing.  Contact via Twitter @JobsinFoodMfr


Are there any ‘bad’ questions an interviewee can ask?


BubbleLogo“There are guaranteed ways to annoy an interviewer, and asking silly questions is one of them! Some of the worst are asking what exactly the job you are being interviewed is. This shows a lack of initiative and that you haven’t researched the position prior to the interview – a big no-no!

Another deal-breaker question is asking how many days holiday you will get. While it’s a perfectly reasonable question, it’s not really one for an initial interview! It suggests you’re more concerned with benefits than the job itself.”

Bubble Jobs Contact via Twitter @BubbleJobs


Logo - Signature 2013“Candidates need to know exactly what they are applying for and should not ask questions with answers that should be blatantly obvious to them.

Asking about money can also send out the wrong sign and should never be asked at the start of an interview!”

Pamela Hopkinson, Jobs in Food Manufacturing.  Contact via Twitter @JobsinFoodMfr


How should you conduct yourself during a Skype interview?


BubbleLogo“Being part of Skype interview can be quite daunting, but they are growing in popularity so it’s important to be prepared!

Don’t be too casual – even though you’re at home, you should make sure you’re dressed smart and act as if you were in a real-life interview room.

Also, make sure the room you’re being interviewed in is clean – no interviewer would be impressed with seeing a pile of dirty washing in the corner!

Finally, be natural, but take advantage of the set up and hide some post-it notes around your screen to give you a quick reminder when you’re struggling to answer a question.”

Bubble Jobs Contact via Twitter @BubbleJobs


What should a candidate be aware of when taking part in a telephone interview?


Logo - Signature 2013“Telephone interviews do not just happen, just as with a one to one interview you will know the time and date, so ensure that you are somewhere quiet where people know not to interrupt you.

Get yourself in the right mind set to take the call and stand and smile throughout the course of the conversation.  This might sound strange, however human communication, according to some researchers consists of more than 50-70% non-verbal signs such as facial expressions etc. By having a phone conversation these communication tools are not available to you. Therefore standing and smiling whilst talking will help in you sounding positive.

Have a pen and piece of paper available to you and note the name of the company and interviewer together with the job title at the top, especially if you are applying for a number of vacancies.

Have a copy of your CV and the job description, if you have one, to hand that you can also refer to if required.”

Pamela Hopkinson, Jobs in Food Manufacturing.  Contact via Twitter @JobsinFoodMfr


How can interviewees demonstrate they are keen and have the right skills for the position?


“If they have done their homework properly leading up to the interview, candidates will be well equipped to demonstrate their abilities. When answering questions they should give examples of work/projects that they have undertaken that have given them the relevant skill set to deal with the role they are applying for.

Using the vacancy description as a basis for responding to questions can also help the candidate include details that although not specifically mentioned in a question, are relevant to the role and desirable to the potential employer.”

Pamela Hopkinson, Jobs in Food Manufacturing.  Contact via Twitter @JobsinFoodMfr


What advice could you offer a candidate on how they can close an interview?


logo_medium“‘Closing’ an interview can be interpreted a number of ways.

It could literally mean, drawing it to a close; a nice, punchy finish.

It might also mean ‘closing’ in the sales-sense; your final chance to sell yourself; the elevator pitch.

Or, it could mean a clear statement of your intentions / feelings in light of everything you’ve discussed at the interview.

However you choose to interpret the concept, we have one, universally applicable piece of advice: Don’t walk out of the door scratching your head.  Make sure you know exactly where you stand!

If you’re wildly enthusiastic, tell them so.  If you need more information before you make a decision about whether they’re right for you or not (and remember, interviews may look like a one-way street but you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you) –then say so.  If you’re not sure what they’re thinking about you – ask.  Ask if there’s any other information they need to know in order to ascertain whether you’re suitable.  Or, if you’re feeling confident, ask the interviewers if there are any areas in which other candidates have demonstrated particular strength, and in which they would find a cross-candidate comparison useful.  They might not be able to give much away verbally, but body language is very telling.  Read between the lines.”

Tim Burns, Managing Director, GPRS Recruitment.  Contact via Twitter @gprsrecruitment


“Candidates should ensure that you have a few relevant questions of their own to ask at the end of the interview, which demonstrate an interest in the organisation or industry sector. However, these should be kept relatively succinct as often interviewers will be conducting more than one interview after another.

Thank the interviewer for their time and confirm your interest in the position and give a firm handshake.”

Pamela Hopkinson, Jobs in Food Manufacturing.  Contact via Twitter @JobsinFoodMfr


“I would say that they should thank the interviewer and also before the close, ask the interviewer if there was any area(s) where they needed further clarification.  Often, if you are asked a question more than once, it is because the interviewer may not have found the insight they were looking for.”

Sophia Husbands, GoGetterMe.  Contact via Facebook or Twitter @GoGetterMe

Smart tips for interview success: Part 1 – Before the interview

Smart tips for interview success: Part 1 – Before the interview

Once your professional and compelling CV has worked its magic, and the recruiter has called you up, the next stage is the much anticipated and often dreaded interview process.

Preparing for, participating in and reflecting on the interview process raises a number of common questions and concerns.  To address these much deliberated issues Giraffe CVs are proud to launch a three-part blog series: Smart tips for interview success.


This week’s blog, part one in the series, focuses on what you can do before the interview to position yourself for success.  Giraffe CVs consulted with a number of recruitment and employability experts; asking them for inside advice and interview tips to help you proactively and properly prepare for your interview.  I hope you enjoy their answers.

Are there any ways an interviewee can position themself in a positive way before the interview date?


Leo Face Pic“If done carefully the subtle use of social media to interact with a company’s social media executive can help to position you in a positive light.  The important thing here is that whichever social media platform you’re using, it must sing from the same hymn sheet as your CV.

If it doesn’t keep your settings to private and step away from the keyboard as you will do more damage than good.  However, if you have developed an online brand that shows you in a positive light, keep a look out for opportunities to add to a company’s conversation with useful insights or ideas, just be sure to remember that less is often more!”

Leo Woodhead, Careers Advisor.  Contact via Twitter @thecareersblog


How can a candidate best prepare for an interview?


L2L logo“Prepare three or four stories from your experience to illustrate why you can do the job.  Know them inside out and draw on different aspects depending on the questions asked.  The key is being relevant, so check carefully against the job requirements.  Practice, practice, practice (find a friend to help).  Learn some relaxation techniques if nerves are a problem.  Do your research on the employer – and that means more than repeating back what is on their website.  Find an excuse to ring up the employer before the interview so they remember you.”

David Shindler, Learning to Leap.  Contact via Twitter @David_Shindler


Logo - Signature 2013“Once you have been accepted for an interview, you know that the interviewer knows your skill set and is aware of any “gaps” you may have.  Now is the time to go the extra mile to stand out from the other candidates.

Research the company, find out exactly what they do, how many offices they have etc.  Basically, any information that you can use in an interview to demonstrate that you have taken an interest in and time to find out about your potential new employer.

Find out exactly where the interview is taking place and, depending on the location, it may be even worth trying out the route prior to the date.  There is nothing worse than getting lost and arriving late and rushed to an interview.

Go back over your CV, especially if you have a couple of different versions depending on which type of vacancy you are applying for.”

Pamela Hopkinson, Jobs in Food Manufacturing.  Contact via Twitter @JobsinFoodMfr


svlogo2“Do research.  If you don’t, you may as well kiss goodbye to that job.  You would be amazed at the number of people who do this.  Be up to speed with the latest facts and figures about the business, but also about the industry and wider trends that affect the business.  Be confident that if you were given a copy of the Financial Times, you could easily choose two or three articles that relate to the organisation/industry you are interviewing for and explain what impact it might have on the organisation.

Form your own opinions.  This conveys a sense of self-awareness.  Someone who can think on their own.  Make sure the opinions you form aren’t too radical for the business you are interviewing with.  Especially if it is a conservative business.  But if it’s a creative job, then let your imagination fly.”

Answer from Charlie Reeve, Head of Graduate Recruitment and Development at Arriva via StudentVine’s Inside Track Series.  Contact via Twitter @GradQuiz


gogetter“It is always a good start to find out about the company.  Know what industry it is in.

Check out the latest media reports on the company, as this gives the impression that you are interested in the company.”

Sophia Husbands, GoGetterMe.  Contact via Facebook or Twitter @GoGetterMe


How much should a candidate try to find out about their target employer?


logo_medium“It’s not enough anymore to simply regurgitate what you can remember of the employer’s website when the opportunity arises at interview.  It’s boring to the interviewer (they’ve already heard it 10 times that day) and it shows little initiative or originality.

Whilst to some extent, the appropriate depth of research is dependent on the level of position (i.e. research for an interview for an entry-level or transactional role, e.g. a sales assistant will be much less intense than research for a senior management or leadership position) good core information includes understanding the organisation’s mission, vision, and values, as well as factual information, including age, size (both in staff numbers and annual turnover), locations, history, partnerships, and recent news.

Role-specific information is often the most neglected area of employer research, but it’s one of the easiest ways to demonstrate capability, interest and passion.  An accountant, for example, should seek out financial information that is relative to their role.  A marketer should seek out information on target markets and product range, as well as making themselves familiar with social channels.  In general, a good ratio of ‘generic’ and ‘role-specific’ information is 75%: 25% respectively.”

Tim Burns, Managing Director, GPRS Recruitment.  Contact via Twitter @gprsrecruitment



L2L logo“An employer wants to know that you are interested in their company and industry.  What are the employer’s strengths in their field or business area?  What are they known for?

Sources include networking (online and face-to-face), online research (Google them), industry/professional forums and journals, newspapers especially business sections (printed or online), people you know who work there, have worked there or other people you know who have these connections.  Speak to their customers or users and competitors.

What are their visible signs of success?  What awards have they won recently?  Visit their offices and look for plaques on the wall in reception, client or customer testimonies, share price and published performance indicators.”

David Shindler, Learning to Leap.  Contact via Twitter @David_Shindler


How much should a candidate try to find out about their interviewer(s)?


Logo - Signature 2013“It is always good to try and find out as much as you can about an interviewer as again there may be something that drops into the conversation that will help you stand out from the crowd.  Professional Social Media sites, such as LinkedIn, are a good tool for this.”

Pamela Hopkinson, Jobs in Food Manufacturing.  Contact via Twitter @JobsinFoodMfr


gogetter“Just as the interviewer looks at your profile, an interview is two-way street.  It is a good idea to find out about the interviewer’s interviewing style, for example whether they prefer competency-based style interviews, or tend to adopt a less formal approach to find out how you would fit into their team.  One method of finding out is by viewing their profile on LinkedIn.”


Sophia Husbands, GoGetterMe.  Contact via Facebook or Twitter @GoGetterMe


Should a candidate try to pre-empt questions and prepare specific answers?


Logo - Signature 2013“It is always good to anticipate the types of questions you may be asked and for some roles it’s easy to know what the interviewer is likely to be looking for.  So definitely plan some general responses.  However, do not become so focused on using your pre-prepared responses that you do not really listen to the question the interviewer is actually asking.”

Pamela Hopkinson, Jobs in Food Manufacturing.  Contact via Twitter @JobsinFoodMfr


Is there such a thing as over-preparing for an interview? 


L2L logo“Only if by doing so you become confused or overwhelmed with information.  We all learn in different ways so find what works for you.  Prepare so you peak at the right time.  You will always face the unexpected and that means responding to unforeseen questions in the moment.  Get used to thinking on your feet by seeking opportunities to be tested when unprepared.  Employers want to know if you can handle uncertainty because that’s what happens in the workplace.  Trust yourself and be yourself – you will know more than you think you do.”

David Shindler, Learning to Leap.  Contact via Twitter @David_Shindler


Logo - Signature 2013“I do not believe that you can be too prepared for an interview.  What I do think can be the case, is that the candidate is so keen to show their knowledge that it detracts from the interview.  Candidates need to keep in mind that an interview should be seen more as a conversation and is as much about them learning about the company and the role as it is for the interviewer to get to know the candidate.”

Pamela Hopkinson, Jobs in Food Manufacturing.  Contact via Twitter @JobsinFoodMfr


Our three-part blog series, smart tips for interview success, will continue next Tuesday with part two: at the interview.