Let me start by saying that I think interviews are a two-way process where its as much for the Interviewer (company) to sell themselves as it is the interviewee (candidate)
However all too often its apparent that candidates don't:
This all seems like basic stuff but it's surprising how many candidates aren't prepared and haven't thought about this.
So why is it important? Well, as an interviewer the level of preparation a candidate undertakes gives an indication of their level of interest in the job and the company. It also gives a fairly indicative steer on how the candidate might operate in the job should they get it.
For example, if they fail to prepare for an interview then how would they deal with a meeting within your business. Would they attend a meeting without being prepared or having thought about any questions they might need answering. You'd hope not - so why would this be acceptable for an interview. If it's acceptable to them at interview (some of the most important meetings they are likely to have) then its likely to be acceptable for meetings as part of their day to day job.
You'd think that for the more middle/senior management roles, candidates would prepare and the above points wouldn't be so much of an issue. Surprisingly that's not the case either and at these levels the failure to prepare stands out even more.
To be fair to candidates I do feel that sometimes they worry about asking questions or more particularly, asking the wrong questions. That's understandable but I don't think they need to. Its very difficult to ask the wrong question unless you're specifically trying to. Sometimes the most obvious and simplest questions are the best because they often create good dialogue between interviewer and interviewee and then lead on to follow on questions.
So what should candidates do to prepare. Well it would be beneficial to be in a position to answer the following three questions as a minimum:
Looking at these in more detail:
What do you know about our company - candidates should do some research with the best starting point being the company website. Understand what the company does; this doesn't need to be that detailed but they should be aware, in general terms, what the company is about. See if the company has been in the news lately as you may well get asked about this at interview. Look at their LinkedIn pages and perhaps the profiles of people who already work there. Speak to people you know who might know about the company, perhaps they've worked there before or deal with them currently. Try to do some research on the people who will be in interviewing you - again LinkedIn will be a good place to start or perhaps they may have a profile on the company website.
Why are you interested in the job/company - 'because I'm looking for a job', 'it's local', or 'it's convenient' are not suitable responses. They may well be true and indeed are valid reasons to a point; but they are not the responses candidates you should give to this type of question. Company's and therefore interviewers want candidates to demonstrate that they clearly have an interest in the job and want to work in their company. Candidates therefore need to get this across to the interviewer(s) and therefore have thought about what in the job description, interests them and why specifically they'd want to work for that company. If possible, candidates should try and incorporate what value they would add to that job/company.
Do you have any questions for us - ideally candidates will have thought about some questions before the interview. They may use some points from the job description which raise questions or they may have some more general questions about the company. Be prepared for some of those questions being answered during the course of the interview. Also be prepared to have some questions prompted or raised during the interview and therefore make notes of them.
I'd recommend that part of a candidates preparation for an interview is to write down their questions on a notepad and refer to them when given the opportunity to do so. Having a pad and pen will also allow them to make some notes if they think of any questions during the interview. Sounds basic I know but this will again show that they are prepared and have done their research.
To put the above in some context. It's highly unlikely that a candidate won't get a job because they haven't prepared or thought of any questions. However it is important to get off to a good start at interview and it's often the case that a couple of the questions outlined above can be asked at the beginning of interviews.
Let me know your thoughts or if you have any suggestions for candidate interview preparation.