This guidance focuses on the sector of non-profits, but certainly can be applied to any job interview.
Preparing for a job interview does not start with practicing interview questions. It begins by learning about the organization. You can be the most qualified candidate in the world but if you do not demonstrate a good understanding of the organization or institution, you will be unlikely to get the job.
Start your research by reading over the job description. Is there a certain division, or department that is referenced at the organization? If you know where to focus your efforts, it will save you time as you conduct detailed research. You do not need to know more than the basics about the organization in general but you should have a good understanding of the department’s areas of focus.
Start your research on the organization website. Read the general mission statement, explore the organization’s history and review the various divisions. Examine this area closely and make notes for yourself. Google the organization or institution name and the division you will be interviewing for. See what articles you can find. Independently written stories will provide you with a more neutral look into the organization, as compared to information that has been processed via the PR or communication department on the organization website.
Your review of the organization website will invariably lead you to LinkedIn.com. You will be able to examine the profiles of professionals in your area of interest, learn more about what they do day to day as well as any personal or divisional accomplishments that are listed. You will likely even be able to find your interviewer’s information. LinkedIn is great as a research tool but you have to be careful. If many employees in the division notice that you are looking at their profiles, it could get awkward. You want to demonstrate that you are doing your research but not necessarily let everyone know that you are looking at their profiles. Consider using LinkedIn in more of a stealth manner. You can switch your settings so that you will appear anonymously when people on LinkedIn check who has viewed their profiles. Alternatively, you can sign out of LinkedIn and use keyword searching on Google to find the LinkedIn profiles that you are looking for. Please note that if you are not signed in (or if you do not have an account at all), you will not be able to see as much information.
After conducting your research, you should prepare a few questions that you can ask during the interview. These questions should play off the research that you conducted and demonstrate your strong knowledge of the organization. Example questions:
Other than increased revenue, how do you measure success in your organization?
What are the two most important problems that need to be addressed/corrected in the first six months by the person in this position?
What are some of the organization’s short and long range objectives?
What are some of the metrics that would be used to evaluate my performance?
Hopefully, these questions help you demonstrate that you have learned enough about the sector of non-profits they are in; competitors, economic conditions and technology, to ask the questions that dig a little deeper. These types of questions help to put you closer to the position of colleagues talking, instead of a strictly interviewer-interviewee relationship.
Lavie Margolin, author of this article, is a career coach and multi-time author. His book, Winning Answers to 500 Interview Questions is a perennial best seller on Amazon’s Job Interview and Career related categories. He can be reached via (845) 480-2823, www.lioncubjobsearch.com or Laviemarg@Lioncubjobsearch.com.