No matter how well you prepare for an interview (see our previous blogs here and here for some advice), there is one element which you will not be able to control – the person doing the interview!
Even in the most structured competency based interview, although designed to minimise subjectivity, you will be at the mercy of the interviewer and winning them over is a key aim in addition to demonstrating that you can actually do the job in question!
Well, as ever, preparation is critical and in addition to doing your research on the role and the company, you should ideally research the person you are meeting. Here are some tips:
Make sure you have their name and job title
Sounds obvious but it is so important that you know who you are meeting. There is a big difference between meeting a junior member of the recruitment team, an HR Manager or your future boss. Each of these individuals will have a slightly different perspective and agenda. Here’s what I mean:
A junior recruiter – is likely to be conducting a ‘vetting’ interview to ascertain that you possess the key criteria for the role before they put you forward into the formal process. This could well be conducted over the phone. Click here for our advice on Telephone Interviews.
An HR Manager – will be focused on ensuring that the interview process is consistent and is likely to conduct a competency based interview as a result. Click here for top tips on how to pass a competency based interview. Their knowledge of the role in question will dictate how in depth the questioning is but one thing they will definitely be interested in is how you fit culturally with the company. They will be looking for potential issues (gaps on your CV for instance) so that they are confident if they ultimately put you forward to meet the hiring manager.
A hiring manager (future boss) – they will be focused on whether you can do the job, whether you will fit with the team (will they like you) and how soon you can start.
Once you have ascertained which category your interviewer falls into, you can tailor your approach accordingly.
When you set out to research your interviewer, first reflect on what information you would like to find. Key areas may be:
- Shared history (companies, sector, University, home town)
- Shared interests (hobbies, training courses, education)
- Clues about their personality and management style (overall tone, language used, anecdotal evidence)
LinkedIn is the obvious place to start to research your interviewer, particularly to understand what their career path has been and to see whether you have any common ground eg. companies you have worked for or mutual contacts.
Understanding which companies they worked for and when may give you insight into their experience and management style. For instance, if you know they worked for a company during a period of intense growth, this may indicate they have a strong entrepreneurial style and are used to managing change.
It is worth checking what University they attended and what they studied. Any school information will give you an indication of where they come from which can also be a nice introduction if you hail from the same area.
Reading testimonials, if they have any, will give you insight into what they are like to work with. It is also worth reading their recommendations of current and future employees as they will often include hints about the qualities they admire in a colleague or team member.
Try to look for key words and phrases that are repeated in the profile. As NLP practitioners would advocate, using these phrases in your interview (provided done so in a natural way) will help ensure your answers resonate with the interviewer.
Remember, if you are not connected to them, googling part of their Linkedin profile may enable you to view their complete profile.
Google Search can often produce interesting results particularly if your interviewer has been quoted in the press or has contributed to any conferences or industry publications.
The company website will sometime list detailed biographies of their senior team so it is worth checking this out too.
Twitter is increasingly used by recruiters to identify candidates and flipping this on its head, can be a useful tool to get ‘inside the head’ of your interviewer – providing they have a Twitter feed of course. This should give you snippets of insight about their interests and even sense of humour – all useful to help you build rapport.
PDF search Searching for PDF documents in a search engine is a great way of finding additional information for instance if the person in question has published any articles, presentations or attended any conferences.
Verbal References are useful if you have any links within your network to people who know the person in question either as peers, previous employees or managers. Clearly, discretion is important here – you don’t want word to get back that you have been interrogating a mutual acquaintance!
Using the information
Once you have done the general research about the person and in particular their career history, you can start to make some deductions (although be wary of having too many pre-conceptions).
For instance, if the person has recently joined the company themselves, they may well still be adjusting to the culture and the successful recruitment of this role may well be a way to prove themselves internally.
Equally, knowing that the HR Director you are meeting was formally in a senior operational role should give you valuable insight – this is a powerful combination!
Using the information gleaned during your research requires thought and planning. Think about how you can build rapport quickly and establish common ground. Clearly the skill here is doing this in a subtle and natural way.
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