How to prepare for an interview

After our recent funding announcement, my first order of business is to hire people to fill our newly open positions. As anyone who has started a company will tell you, the people you hire early into the company are *critical* to the long-term success of the business. The first few employees set the tone and vibe for the company. We strive to hire the best people we’ve ever worked with. And we spend alot of time together, so it’s critical that we all get along well.

Over the past several days I’ve done a number of interviews with candidates. One thing I’ve been struck with are the vast differences between those who prepare for an interview and those who don’t. Here’s some advice that I gave a college-age person yesterday (she was interviewing for a college intern position). Before you interview, learn about the person that is going to interview you. With all of the resources of the web, you can find out a lot about me pretty quickly; where I’ve worked, my professional experience etc. But more importantly, you can find out personal things about me. What makes me tick? Do we share the same interests? Do we know anyone or anything in common? These are critical things to learn BEFORE the interview so that you can not only make small talk but you can “get inside my head.”

Let me contrast this to a person that I’m going to interview in the next hour. I’ve never met this person, but already I’m impressed. Not only did she take the time to learn our product (she provided a great summary of things she liked/disliked) but she followed that up with a clarification email a day later. AND…. yesterday she posted a thoughtful and interesting comment to a recent blog post I wrote. I don’t know if she’s done her research on me, but my guess is that she’ll be prepared.

So how do you prepare for a interview? Spend time showing your interest and thoughtfulness. Learn about your interviewer (especially things that make that person tick). And when all else fails, learn the product inside and out.

To the college student who wasn’t prepared: I sincerely hope that you’ll take this advice and use it in the future. There’s simply no substitute for preparation before an interview.

To the person who I’m interviewing at 11am: I look forward to talking with you. You’ve already demonstrated a keen level of thinking that we look for in the people we like to hire. Smart. Very smart.

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3 Responses to How to prepare for an interview

  1. […] CEO Matt Douglas has an excellent article about preparing for an interview and how to handle research in […]

  2. Jim Dandy says:

    A little harsh with the college intern, aren’t you? Even if it is a paid internship, you come across as arrogant.

  3. mdouglas says:

    Jim,
    Yes, it is a paid internship– if I come across as harsh/arrogant, well so be it. She had over a week to prepare for the interview. I encouraged her to look at the site so that we could have discussion. Is it harsh to expect that a young, professional woman in college would spend a few minutes preparing for an interview? Is it arrogant to think that this intelligent woman should spend a few minutes doing the basics to learn WHO she is interviewing with? Come on — this person is not a child. She’s a grown woman with an impressive resume. She should have been prepared.

    To respect her privacy, I won’t post the email I got from her after she read this blog post. She most definitely would not agree with you.

    Oh, but thanks for writing 🙂

    – MjD

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