No matter how confident you are going into a job interview, you never know how important a role stress and nerves will play as you sit face-to-face with someone who has your future in the palm of their hands. I learned the hard way that if you don't get your facts straight prior to a job interview, unemployment is going to a lengthy and difficult experience.
I was going nowhere once I became unemployed. The millions of emails I had sent out were met with a discouraging silence. There was immediate anger, both warranted and unwarranted - "How could I not get a PR position at a Bronx college when I was the managing editor of a newspaper in the Bronx and had written an entire Bronx Almanac, which included said college?" "How can I not even get an interview with Baruch College when I graduated from the school?" It's amazing the sense of entirelement you feel when applying for jobs with companies and institutions you are extremely familiar with. But after I had almost given up hope, calls started coming in.
I received an interview for a PR position at Mercy College. I felt I was prepared. I had several copies of my resume (I learned that lesson the hard way, too), writing samples and examples of press hits I had garnered during my time at The New York Public Library. I knew I had the job before I got there. During my bus ride to Dobbs Ferry, I was questioning how I was going to make this trip each day, would I have to buckle down and get a car, and what it would be like to move closer to the school. I had another interview the next day - How would I choose between companies? "Sorry, you can't have all this...I'm working at Mercy."
I got to the school an hour early. I made small talk with my “new co-workers” and I was finally called into the office where the first question asked was - "What do you know about Mercy College?" I knew everything about Mercy College, because I had written about them so many times for the newspaper I had worked for. I had been to their Bronx campus several times, but never thought to prepare for this question since the answer should have been easy. However, fear suddenly crept in to the point where I forgot everything and said, "I've covered so many schools for the paper, I think I might be mixing them up in my head." NOOOOOOO!!!! I nailed every other part of the interview and then apologized about my earlier stumble before leaving, because I really thought reminding someone of my failure would help me in the decision-making process. "That Jon, he knows nothing about us, but he came in an hour early."
Lesson learned. I started creating cheat sheets with both the most important and most interesting information about the company I was applying for. The more I read my cheat sheet the more I remembered and the better prepared for the interview I was. It helped when I discovered that NYIT had an amazing lacrosse team. When I interviewed for a Global Relations position at the school, I rattled off facts and then added, "You have an amazing lacrosse team," and quickly shifted the interview to my work experience, mentioning how I used to write about lacrosse. The interview was a breeze and I picked up a second interview. I didn’t get the job, but at least I didn’t disrespect the interviewer.
This continued for every company I interviewed with up until I was offered a job. Knowing about a company doesn't mean you will automatically get the job. There are other lessons you learn during a job search, but the question they ask immediately weeds out non-serious jobseekers who apply to every job they can without rhyme or reason. In today's economy, who can blame people for doing so. Jobs are scarce and you take what you can get, but if you didn't do the research during the job search, when they ask you to come in or call in for an interview, the work has just begun. Find out everything you can about the company, but don't stop there. Figure out the aspects of the company that best apply to your skill set, personal history or future aspirations. In this way, you can impress the interviewer, explain why you are perfect for the job, and add a personal touch that makes a memorable impression on those you meet with.
“What do you know about our company” is the easiest question they could ask. It’s like an open-book test. Information is on the company's website; it's available in a simple Google News search; and (cheap plug alert), a more in-depth peek is available in Vault's company profiles. The Internet does the work for you. It’s up to you to do the research and prepare. Get your facts straight. With the resources at your fingertips, if you walk in and don't know anything about the company you are applying to, you fail before you even started.
--Posted by Jon Minners, Vault.com