Everyone thinks they know how to interview candidates, but can there be consistent truths that enable someone to uncover the genius of a given candidate in the 30 to 60 minutes that you are allotted for your “date”?

Given the information at our fingertips — blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google, MediaBistro, and other websites — gathering your research and resources before an interview can be an endless process. First and foremost, though, is the fact that every candidate you interview should be quizzed on your company’s product and/or services, your strategic direction, recent news releases, and who’s who at your competition. If they can’t pass your test, you need to show them to the door.

Perhaps this sounds harsh, but if candidates haven’t done their due diligence, then why should you take the time to figure out if they are going to add value for your company? Hint, if they don’t come to your interview prepared to discuss either your business or your company with some level of specificity, they are not likely to become a key to solving your problems once they are hired.

It doesn’t really matter if candidates are able to memorize the facts and figures on your company — I wouldn’t care if they came to the meeting with some notes, questions, and, yes, even copies of your website. What’s important is that they are interested in you and the problems your company needs to solve. If candidates can’t speak to your company’s challenges, why let them waste your time?

Looked at through the other side of the lens, if you’re preparing to interview for a job with anything more than the most basic responsibility, you’re best off approaching the interview as if you already have the job in hand and that this is a meeting with your boss about the matter at hand. Whether the company involved is a digital agency, a publisher, or any kind of third party in our space, a simple search on this site and other trades in our space, as well as on the aforementioned social media outlets, will provide a wealth of information.

Pratfalls

It’s not enough just to read these resources, however. It’s vital to know what information is actionable for you. And candidates, you must realize that the same is true in the other direction, as anyone interviewing you can find a wealth of information about you online.

Savvier candidates will know how to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially as it pertains to Twitter, in order to discover the nuggets of truth. Let’s say you’re interviewing for an account director position at a digital agency. By scouring both the social media landscape and trade media online, you can learn far more about the brands you’ll be working with, their challenges and successes, as well as the work that’s been done. Think of yourself as a fact-checker, trying to locate even just a few nuggets of truth that can become arrows in your quiver during an interview. But, beware the pratfalls of believing everything you read. There is so much nonsense in social media — especially on Twitter — that it is vital to maintain a most discerning eye throughout.

Staying sharp about a company and its business prior to an interview can make a major difference. But, why stop there if you’re preparing for this new job? If you’ve been unemployed, have you kept current with the tools and technologies you’ll be using if you manage to get hired? Let’s say you’re going to be expected to author in Flash for this new role. Can you use the most recent version if you’re asked to do so during an interview?

This is a pretty rudimentary example. So, consider how it applies to whatever your role might be, and follow through. If acing an interview is akin to getting to first base, then do what a baseball player should and run through the bag — not just to it. You’ll perform better if you expect this from yourself, just as any interviewer will select the best candidate if this is what they expect.

 

Erika Weinstein is president of Stephen-Bradford Search

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