Educate October 2017

Preparing For Your Interview: Key Action Items Prior to Going In

Written By: Craig Petrus, Executive Director of Career Services, University of Florida, Hough Graduate School of Business
It is important to keep in mind throughout this whole process that you need to differentiate yourself in some way from the other candidates. Knowing more about the company and industry than the other candidates, along with the person interviewing you, will certainly set you apart.

You have just landed an interview for your dream job and your level of excitement and anticipation is at an all-time high. Now what? Time to prepare of course! Too many people make the mistake of not preparing for their interviews prior to arrival. Some think that they can walk right in and nail it, only to find themselves one or two questions into the interview and realize they are in trouble. Don’t let this be you! If your dream job has presented itself, you need to do all that you can to make it a reality.

Here are a few tips you should follow prior to going into your next interview.

Company and Industry Research

One of the first places to start is to research both the company you are interviewing with and the industry it represents. However, the key here is to go beyond the surface of what is on the company website or industry sites. You need to dig deeper to find two or three nuggets of information, when brought up by you in an interview, the interviewee will know you did your homework.

While the company website is a great place to start, as you will become familiar with the company, what they do, their mission, vision and vales – go deeper than what seems right in front of you to find information that is not as prevalent. This can mean going to the press page of their website and reading over several of their recent press releases. If they are a publicly held company, read highlights of their 10-K annual report filing. Visit any corporate responsibility portions of their website and any recent company news they are putting out. Review who their leadership team is, their history, their ethics and any information they are producing for the industry they are involved in.

Next, go beyond the company website and Google the company to see what you find. Are there blogs about the company, any social media pages that you can find and start to follow? Are there any industry guides that speak about the company, what they do and how they are perceived in the market? In conducting industry research, is there an official association that is associated with the industry that those that work within follow or are members of? Are there any industry blogs, news sites or trade magazines that you can uncover and follow? Who are the industry leaders in this field, both companies and executives that have set themselves apart? How global is the industry as well as the company?

This may seem like a lot, and it is. So ensure that you schedule plenty of time to conduct this research, take many notes and study them prior to your arrival. Treat this like a homework assignment, as the more you put into it, the better off your grade will be. It is important to keep in mind throughout this whole process that you need to differentiate yourself in some way from the other candidates. Knowing more about the company and industry than the other candidates, along with the person interviewing you, will certainly set you apart.

Know Who You Are Interviewing With

Don’t treat your interview like a blind date. Find out as much as you can about those that you are interviewing with so that you have some knowledge of who they are and what they do at the company. It is not uncommon to ask the human resources person or hiring manager you are working with for this information. I recommend asking for an itinerary for your day, along with the names and titles of those that you are interviewing with.

Once armed with this information, revert back to the research stage of your preparation and start to find out as much as you can about these individuals. This information may be listed on their website and quite possibly can include their biographies. Another great resource to uncover additional information about your interviewees is LinkedIn. Review their LinkedIn profile to see where they have worked in the past, where they completed their education and other tidbits of information where you may find you have something in common. If you do uncover some commonalities, this is a great conversation starter when meeting them for the first time.

All this time spent in this stage of the process with also show the interviewees that you did your research on them as well, which is expected. Again, resulting in very much of a differentiator for you among the other candidates. Above and beyond a simple LinkedIn search, take some time to Google those that you are scheduled to interview you. You may find out that they are part of industry associations, social causes in your market or other useful information that can be used to your advantage.

Informational Interviews

One great way to prepare for your interview is to become the interviewee yourself, prior to your actual interview itself. What do I mean? If you have the ability to do so, conduct an informational interview with someone who actually works at the company, one that is not slated to be part of your interview schedule.

In conducting this type of interview, you are able to uncover all kinds of information that you normally would not have been able to garner, such as identifying company culture, what are the future goals of the company and what is it like to work there? For those individuals that are interviewing you, what are they like? All kinds of great information can be captured by conducting this type of exercise prior to going in.

A great way to identify an advocate of sorts for this exercise is to look into your own network. Ask around to see if anyone you know who works there. Are there any alumni from the university you graduated from who work there? Reach out to them directly and explain your situation. Request 15 to 20 minutes of their time, and be direct with your questions, so as to not waste time. Be sure to thank them at the end of your interview, as they can also become a positive voice for you internally to the hiring managers.

Interview Questions

Lastly, prepare yourself with great answers to those tough interview questions, and ask tough interview questions yourself. You never want to go into an interview having not practiced answering interview questions that you think you may encounter. There are all kinds of resources on the internet that will provide practice interview questions that you should be prepared for, along with interview questions that you should be prepared to ask yourself. Be prepared to answer behavioral based interview questions. You can identify these by the starting phrase, “Tell me a time when…” You want to answer these questions by utilizing the STAR Method (Situation, Task, Action, Result).

Take them through your career experience utilizing this method by telling them a story, one that resulted in great value and impact at the company that you yourself accomplished. When preparing interview questions for yourself to ask, utilize the 2-2-2 Rule. That is, ask two questions about the job, two questions about the company, and two questions about the industry. Ask very thoughtful questions that are not the common, cookie-cutter type of questions.

Take some time to research these questions and how they relate to the job, company and industry. Be sure not to deliver them as a robot either. You want to display confidence when asking questions, to show that you are intelligent and can manage the pressure of a situation like this.

The more you practice, the more engaged you will be during your interview. Just like anything, preparation will provide you with great confidence going in and it will show.


CRAIG W. PETRUS joined the Warrington College of Business in June of 2009. As Executive Director, Craig is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Business Career Services Office and ensuring the delivery of quality career development programming and services to students within the College of Business at the University of Florida.

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