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If you want a good job, chances are you’re going to have to be interviewed. The interview is a crucial point in getting any job, but many people don’t realize that there is more to it than just showing up to the interview with a nice suit and a lot of confidence. If you really want to make an impact on your interviewer and get an edge on the competition, then you have to begin preparing long before the actual interview. The steps are simple: search out the information, familiarize yourself with the company for the interview, and use this information for your own benefit.

First you have to search out this information. The company should have plenty of brochures or other literature available to you. Simply write a letter or call asking for them to send you some. Obtain as much as you can. You’ll be letting them know from the start that you are interested in them and are serious about getting the job. Chances are, whatever you come up with will be directed towards potential employees like yourself. They WANT you to know about them. Take this opportunity to see if the company is really for you. You may even find out something about the company that you’d like to know more about, such as the work atmosphere, in which case you can ask the interviewer for more information. He or she will be impressed to see that you have given this much serious thought about the company. If the company is fairly large, chances are they’ve got a website. Some companies, like Price Waterhouse Coopers, dedicate a significant portion of their site to informing and welcoming prospective job applicants. They may even have an online application to fill out. At the very least, there should be a page entitled “About” where you can learn at least some basic knowledge about the company, which is better than nothing. Make sure you print any helpful pages out, for future reference.

Half the challenge is FINDING the information--then you have to decide WHAT exactly you need to know for the interview. You need to pick up on the information that will familiarize yourself with the major aspects of the company. Your interviewer is going to want to see that you are interested in the company and that you know something about what you are getting into. The more information you have, the more powerful you can be in the interview. This will demonstrate by example that you are the type of person who gives 110%. Avoid a common mistake: Don’t waste time trying to memorize exactly all the numbers you may be presented with--sales and revenue over the past decade, stock market price, etc.--this is NOT going to be a test where the interviewer asks you trivia about the company. Be more concerned with the trends and ideas within the company. Some suggestions are the products, their philosophy, their future plans, and their position in the marketplace. These are the things that you will be able to casually bring up in the interview that will show that you know something about the company. Memorizing trends and ideas rather than facts and numbers makes it easier on you, also.

One of the most important things to learn that many people overlook is the important names of people within the company. Again, don’t waste time memorizing everyone in middle management. Know the name of your interviewer(s) and--more importantly--be sure of the correct pronunciation. If you look at company information and find out that your interviewer is named Mr. Krzyzewski, you should probably call ahead and ask a receptionist how to pronounce it correctly. Find out who are your potential supervisors or esteemed colleagues in the department in which you are seeking employment--there’s a chance you might meet them the day of the interview.

But you’re not just doing research for the interviewer’s sake. You should also use the information you’ve gathered to your OWN benefit to learn what life would be like working here. There are many reasons why you should do this. Think of it the same as when you were picking a college--you’re going to have to be there every day, so there are many things to take into consideration. A company is not just composed of the job you perform--it has its own personality, its own atmosphere--so you have to make sure you are compatible with it. You may have certain expectations about what the company has to offer as far as promotions, bonuses, and personal endeavors. If you choose the wrong job, you could get yourself stuck in the same cubicle for a long time. Another good reason to research early for yourself is so that if you have any questions, you will have an opportunity to have them answered at the interview. You probably should even make a list of 3-5 intelligent questions to ask the interviewer, as this will impress him or her. One great advantage of doing good research: you will feel more in control and will feel less nervous and edgy.

Now, exactly what should you find out? How many employees are there in the company? In your department? Doing your same job? Maybe you like disappearing into the numbers, or maybe you value your individuality Either way, you need to know where you'll stand. Find out about the atmosphere. You should know if you are going into a cut-throat, competitive, winner-take-all environment or if your co-workers will be friendly and encouraging. If you are into job security, you should find out about perks like room for advancement, stock options, insurance, etc. These are the things that let you know how much they value their committed employee.

In order to really make an impact in your interview AND best match yourself to an employer, you should follow the proper process for researching a company before an interview. You should first find the sources of information, then obtain relevant facts about the company for the interview, and finally gain information for yourself personally. There’s no reason why you should go into any interview unprepared. Now go get a job!!!