The Interview:

As obvious as it may seem, many candidates do not understand that the interview is the single most important step in the hiring process. All your hard work to get to the interview stage may go down the tubes if you are not prepared for the interview.

The first step in preparing for an interview is to learn as much as you can about the prospective employer. If you have not already researched the company or are not familiar with them from prior industry experience, try to find as much about them as possible.

Read the annual report. All public companies publish one which frequently goes into great detail about the products, financials and industry in which the company competes.

Use their web site to get a feel for their products, company culture, and company structure. Some companies show their organization chart on the web site, which is a good way to learn who the key personnel are. Look at any press releases the company has posted to get up to date on recent developments. If you know anyone in the company or in the same industry, pump them for any information they may have about the company and its reputation and business practices. If you have time, research the local business news paper for stories about the company or the industry to determine trends or recent developments.

Review the company financials if they are available. All public companies have to file an annual 10K report which is available on the Securities and Exchange web site if not on the companies own web site or in the Annual Report. Public companies are also covered by financial publications and financial web sites like and others. Privately held companies are a little harder to research because they don’t have to publish their financial results, however, information is frequently available in local newspaper articles or other public sources.

Make sure you dress properly for the interview. Even notoriously casual companies, like software developers, expect job candidates to dress up for their interview. In general, the larger the company, the more important the dress is for the interview. A dark suit with a power tie is never over dressed. Forgo any unusual or controversial clothing, jewelry or hair styles during the interview. You can shock your employer all you want after you have been hired but don’t turn off a potential employer before you have a chance to show what you can do on the job.

Always get to the interview site early. Allow plenty of time for getting lost or finding parking, especially if the area is unfamiliar to you. Take the phone numbers for your point of contact in case you need last minute directions to the company offices. Get plenty of sleep the night before and don’t fill up on coffee before the interview.

After the interview, be sure to send a thank you note or e-mail to the hiring manager or interviewer. You can usually get the correct contact information from the secretary or receptionist when you report for the interview or before you leave. Thank anyone who has helped you get the interview. Even if you are not the primary candidate for the job, follow up a week or so later to see if there is any interest. The first choice for the position may fall out and you want to be in position to fill in behind them if at all possible.