Attention Admins: The Importance of Pre-Interview Research
As an administrative professional, you know that attention to detail is a skill that is integral to success. That being said, it should come as no surprise to you that a little research on the company is a MUST before any interview. “Whether you’re searching for a new administrative position on your own or with the help of a recruiter, it’s important to do adequate research on any company you have an interview with,” says Lauren Pearce, an Executive Recruiter within The Execu|Search Group’s Office Support division. “The question, ‘please tell me what you know about our company,’ can come up at any time, whether it is explicitly asked or implied through other types of questions. As a result, it doesn’t look good when an interviewer asks you a question aimed at testing your knowledge of the company and it’s met with hesitation, silence, or a generic response.”
It’s important to walk into an interview having done not only enough research, but the right kind. To put you on the right track, here are a few do’s and don’ts of pre-interview research:
Do research, but don’t mention anything negative
Before your interview, look up the company on the internet and also read through their website to gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what they do. “This will help you weave your enthusiasm about the company and their accomplishments into your responses,” notes Lauren. On that note, it’s also important to be knowledgeable of the company’s key players—especially those you may find yourself supporting. “You never know who the hiring manager might pull into the interview for you to meet,” warns Lauren. “That being said, it’s considered a best practice to have some general knowledge of who the higher-level executives are so that you may be better able to hold a conversation with them.”
On the other hand, don’t mention anything negative that you came across in your research. “No company is perfect, so whether it’s a former employee who left a bad review or a piece of negative news, it’s best to leave it be, at least in the early interview stages,” says Lauren. “You want to focus on making a positive impression in an interview, and bringing up unfavorable news or reviews may set a poor tone for the rest of the meeting.”
Do look up your hiring manager on LinkedIn, but don’t get too personal
If possible, try to get the name of the person who will be interviewing you and look them up on LinkedIn prior to your meeting. “Don’t feel awkward about reviewing your hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile,” advises Lauren. “If you find a shared affiliation or hobby on their LinkedIn or other professionally based site, it’s absolutely ok to bring it up. It can be a great conversation starter and can help you make a long-lasting impression.” That being said, it’s best not to look them up or attempt to contact them on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Sites like these are unrelated to your interview, so there is no need to do research on your interviewer’s personal life.
Do ask questions, but don’t ask irrelevant ones
Asking informed questions is one of the best ways to illustrate your interest in the position as well as your knowledge of the company. For that reason, use your research to formulate questions about the organization’s company culture and daily expectations. After all, this may be a business that you’ll be working for in the future, so asking questions can help you to decide if it’s the right fit for you.
On the other hand, asking unrelated questions communicates to the hiring manager that you may not have the best grasp on their company objectives or the intricacies of the position at hand. As an administrative professional, you need to understand how to represent the company well—something that is nearly impossible to do if you don’t take the time to learn about the company.
Do know the position you are interviewing for, and don’t assume every type of administrative role is the same
There are many types of administrative roles, so knowing the details of the one you’re applying for is key to interview success. Before you dive into your research, first ask yourself a few questions about the particulars of this position. What daily requirements does the role entail? What are the necessary skills for the position? Knowing the particulars of your potential day-to-day tasks makes it easier to position your experience in a way that demonstrates your fit for the role.
However, assuming this position will be similar to other positions you’ve held can be a big mistake. “The chances of this position being the same as your last are very slim,” says Lauren. “Every company operates differently and has varying objectives, so be sure to fully understand the particular job before heading into an interview.” For that reason, try to avoid discussing past roles and responsibilities that are unrelated to the position at hand. Instead, focus on your most relevant accomplishments and transferrable skills that will help you be successful with the specific company you are interviewing for.
Doing research prior to an interview not only shows that you are interested in the role, but that you’ve taken the time to learn about the past, present, and future of their business. In addition to helping you make a positive impression on the employer, your pre-interview research will set you up for success should you land the role.