/ How much preparation do you do for an interview?

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mkean - on 31 Oct 2012
How much preparation do you do before attending a job interview? I was pondering the qunatity of time and effort that I have put into preparing for them in the last couple of years and wondered if this is normal (admittedly I'm looking for fairly technical research linked roles so it is fairly involved):

Getting a background on the company (history, culture)
Looking for financial information on the company
Researching the industry as a whole
Comparisons of their products with competitiors
Looking at their patent filings to see what they may be working on
Googling the interviewer and looking them up on Linked in etc
Looking into any processes or equipment they may use (including looking into any equipment in photos on their website etc)
Learning the theory behind their current processes
Running through a set of stock answers for classic HR type questions

How does your interview preparation compare?
nniff - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean:

Sort of the same, bar the patent stuff.

Spend a fair bit of time on me too - examining the 'product' and making sure that I know it inside out so that when I get a typical HR question or aderivative or one I've got an example to back up the answer, that hopefully steers the interview around to something I'll happily talk more about.
Frank4short - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean: Largely the same except possibly not so much indepth technical stuff as so far in my working life i've worked in more generic type industries.
TheDrunkenBakers - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean:

Depends on the role and how badly I wanted the job.
Owen W-G - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean:

You'll need to reherse answers to stock questions:

What are your strengths/weaknesses
How would your colleagues/friends describe you
Where do you want to be in 5/10ys time

etc
EeeByGum - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean: I think it depends what sort of role you are going for. In my experience of software, a basic knowledge of the public face of the company gets you out of the question "So what do you know about our company" but interviewers tend to be more interested in what I can do and my experience than how much I know about them or the financial background of the company at large.
Ridge - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean:

Depends on how much I want the job ;-)

In practice very similar to you, minus the patents and stalking the interview panel.
antdav - on 31 Oct 2012
Sounds like a good list which should impress most interviewers.

Stock questions need to be learnt even though they count for nothing as we all prepare the same stock answers. I got asked where i'd like to be in 5 years when interviewing for a 6 month contract.

Read about some of the less mainstream interview questions as these are slowly replacing the stock questions. Manhole covers, elephants in fridges and the 3 legged wobbly stool are current favourites.
goldmember - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to Ridge: plus 1
ElBarto - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean:
I basically just looked into the company a bit and that was all, but then in my profession people are more interested how well I can code and do the job than what I know of the company. I mainly looked into the company to see if I'd want to work for them or not.
Tiberius - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to Owen W-G:
> Where do you want to be in 5/10ys time

Is that still allowed in these days of anti age discrimination?

I was asked it recently and asked if it meant the interviewer was looking for a younger candidate? She backtracked quite quickly, was fun to watch.
ElBarto - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean:
Having just given an interview (I wasn't the only one giving the interview) here's one someone asked, "What would you be doing if you weren't in this profession?"
Ava Adore - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean:

It doesn't seem to bear any relation to job success. I spent literally days preparing for one job interview - admittedly this one was a competency based interview with the requirement for a presentation. I didn't get the job and when I asked for feedback was told very honestly that I was too good for what they wanted and that they wouldn't be able to afford to keep me in the long term.

For this job, I barely did any preparation (the company was too big to be able to do much meaningful research - if that makes sense) but I was offered it straight away.
butteredfrog - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean:

Maybe I need to spend more time preparing my CV, never get as far as the interviews! :(
Wiley Coyote - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to Tiberius:
> (In reply to Owen W-G)
> [...]
>
interviewer backtracked quite quickly, was fun to watch.

But did you get the job?

Cú Chullain - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean:

Not a lot, turn up on time, spend an hour talking about the rugby over a cup of tea, tell them at the end what my availability is, negotiate with their HR team my rate, get contract in post the next day.
Ava Adore - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to butteredfrog:

Never hurts to re-visit your CV but don't despair. In some sectors there are so many people applying, you can be sending CVs out till the cows come home and no-one will reply.
winhill - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean:

I once more or less memorised a companies entire website, in fact I knew it better than the MD because they outsourced it.

It included a piece about the time they worked with Cliff Richard and they seemed acutely embarassed about the whole thing.
JdotP - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean:

Clearly the amount and type of preparation depends on what you are applying for, but I think it is quite common for people to put in the kind of preparation you list here. I spent (overall) about a week preparing for the interview for my current job (I am a University lecturer). Different preparation to what you list - a lot of my time was spent preparing my carpet-selling material, but similar in thoroughness....
JamButty - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean: It always amazes me how many people know sod all about the company they are applying for, and sometimes what job they're actually applying for.
Other thing I'd do is google the company itself for any recent news articles etc.

Liam M - on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to JamButty:
> (In reply to mkean) It always amazes me how many people know sod all about the company they are applying for, and sometimes what job they're actually applying for.

I've found agencies can sometimes be a factor in that. I've had several interviews where I only realised part way through that the job the agent has briefed me that I'm applying for is very different to what the the interviewer was interviewing me for.

I've also discovered that the company I'm currently with doesn't particularly care beyond a very broad overview if interviewees have little knowledge of the company. During a discussion between newer employees and management last week, the inference was that unless you were already in the sector you'd probably know little useful about the company and by restricting it to those who did have such knowledge they would be turning away a lot of technically very capable engineers.

When you're on a huge recruitment drive as we currently are, dismissing candidates on such grounds wouldn't be particularly helpful.


whenry on 31 Oct 2012
In reply to mkean: That's all good stuff, but it really depends on the company and it's difficult sometimes to know what they're looking for. I'm a technical recruiter, and feedback from some of my clients has been that some candidates know no more about the company than what I've told them; others (mainly in the defence industry) have very little publicly available information about the work that they do - and so obviously don't expect much knowledge from candidates. It's always better to know too much - no one will every pull you up on it if you're well prepared.

Stalking the interviewers is certainly useful - if you've got something in common it's good to be able to sneakily bring it up. Just don't be too obvious - I once interviewed someone to work for our company who had clearly done loads of digging on all our employees - he just came across as seriously creepy.

As you're going for a technical role, I'd focus on ensuring that your knowledge of your area is top notch and that you are confident on all the areas of the job brief and your CV. In my experience, technical knowledge is where most people fail, and so even if you're confident that you know what you're talking about, I'd still recommend going over your books.

In terms of time spent preparing, we expect our candidates to spend between 8 and 16 hours preparing - sometimes more if it's a second interview and they've been asked to research specific areas.
mkean - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to Liam M:
I've found agencies can sometimes be a factor in that. I've had several interviews where I only realised part way through that the job the agent has briefed me that I'm applying for is very different to what the the interviewer was interviewing me for.

I've been there and it isn't nice, I've had 2 interviews where I wasn't right for the role and it was immediately obvious that the agency hadn't done a great job or translating the job spec or had just sent out the wrong details. I did have a couple of very enlightening discussions about the differences between what the recruiter wanted and what the job spec was.

I'm feeling a little nervous about my interview on Monday as there isn't a lot of publicly available information and I can't work out how they make their product. (A novel pharmaceutical delivery system but there aren't any currently marketed products) I'd normally hope to be able to give a good background on their process before I start :-(
mkean - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to whenry:
Stalking the interviewers is certainly useful - if you've got something in common it's good to be able to sneakily bring it up. Just don't be too obvious

Definitely, in my case it is generally to avoid treading on anyones toes. You don't want to give an example of "dealing with a difficult person" and end up using someones best mate as the example!
michaelc - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:

The big preprep HR question you should be able to answer is "tell me about yourself", and it should be short and interesting. Interviewers often ask it to be lazy, but you can balls it up if you're not careful.

Also, regarding learning about the company, in my opinion the big thing is "can you convince them you really want the job?". You should have a clear story about why you want to work in this industry/company/role, based on data/facts (so you need to know a bit about the firm). This story should fit with what you want to say about yourself (experience to date, ambitions for future), and should make it seem like for you this is exactly where you need and want to be next.

I've done a share of interviews on the other side of the table, and enthusiastic desire to get the job counts for a lot. Disinterest or apathy is a huge turn-off (it's like dating).

Then you get to your functional/competency stuff, convincing them that you actually can and will do the job when hired. That depends very much on the role.
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JdotP - on 01 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:

Also, if you have to give a presentation as part of the interview, then do make sure that the presentation doesn't overrun the allotted time. Sounds obvious, but it is surprising how many people don't ensure that their presentation is the right length. This does send the message "I didn't really prepare properly because I'm not that fussed about getting the job"

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