You can’t get advice about a job interview without hearing the infamous “do your homework” cliché. Allow us to elaborate. Doing your homework involves a lot more than checking the company Web site and carefully reading the job description. If you really want to feel confident that you know the company, you need to go deeper—you need to be a stalker. Here’s how to do it in 6 easy (and maybe slightly creepy) steps.
- Get Obsessed
Do you want the job or do you want the job? Good stalkers are more than just interested in their targets. If you really want to land the job you have your eye on, you have to be consumed with an unnatural desire for the position. Don’t even entertain the thought of not getting what you’re after. At least for the days leading up to the interview, set your mind on the company. Be willing to do more than what you’ve done in the past. Don’t break the law, but don’t be afraid to stretch the boundaries of good taste.
- Scout the Premises
This point is obvious to stalkers but too often ignored by job seekers. Unless the job listing expressly forbids you to do so, apply to the job in person. Try to get past as many gatekeepers as you can, preferably all the way to the person doing the hiring. Some Human Resources departments prefer to handle the applications and resumes, but unless you’re applying for an HR position, that’s not your concern. Making your face and name known to your prospective employer gives you an edge in the hiring process. It also gives you the chance to stalk your prey in person.
Even if the company does have a virtual restraining order against job applicants, you should still do your best to visit the physical location of the job site before your first interview. You can get a feel for the working environment, maybe spot someone you know, and at the very least know how to get there, where to park, etc. The last thing you want is to be late on interview day.
- Identify Your Future Co-Workers, Bosses
In person or online, you need to find out exactly who you’re stalking. Learn the names of as many people as you can who work at (or for) the company—the CEO, VP, director, manager, assistants, and custodial staff. The more names you find, the more likely you are to stumble across someone you know—or someone who knows someone you know. And don’t overlook the resource most likely to give you an unbiased opinion: outside vendors and freelancers. People who don’t have to answer to the same supervisor as you will is much more likely to dish the really rewarding dirt.
- Make the Most of Inside Information
After you’ve learned the names of the people who work where you’re interviewing, look for the connections you already have. If you have previous experience in the industry, there’s a high probability of encountering someone you’ve worked with or gone to school with. Utilize the connection to the fullest. Offer to take your old acquaintance (or cousin’s best friend’s next-door neighbor) out to lunch to get the inside scoop on the personalities, working styles, pet peeves, and frustrations of the people you’ll be interviewing with. You’d be surprised how willing people are to offer up information on their co-workers, especially to people who don’t work with them (yet). Asking people for their inside knowledge makes them feel important—and they are extremely important to your ability to interview with confidence.
- Cyber Stalk
You’ve talked with the people you know, now it’s time for a little surveillance of the people you don’t know. Scour the social networks for the accounts of your would-be co-workers. Google the key players at the company. Do whatever you can to find an online presence for anyone who might be in on the interview or any trends involving the company. In this brave new world, you might catch the boss in an online rant or a disgruntled employee venting about his or her biggest gripes and frustrations. Look for anything that will give you the inside track on what makes the organization tick—also keep an eye out for red flags telling you to run away fast and find a new job to stalk.
- Cover Your Tracks
After doing all your homework and then some, the most important step is to play it cool. Incorporate the information into your general approach to the interview. Answer the questions (and wow them with your own insightful inquiries) using what you’ve learned without giving yourself away as the next coming of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. If you’ve correctly analyzed the personalities of the major players, you’ll know who to impress with big picture thinking and who cares only about results—you’ll show them you’re intuitive and well rounded. But tell them you really like the pictures of their vacation in Bali (wink, wink) and you’ll be dismissed from the interview faster than you can say, “Thank you for your time.”
There’s a fine line between good honest research and creepy leering. As long as you don’t cross it, you’ll be well informed, thoroughly prepared, and totally confident as you ace the interview.
We’d love to know what you think? How far have you gone to study up for a job interview? Do you think these “stalking” tactics go too far or not far enough? Let us know your thoughts.