Being properly prepared for interviews is critical for impressing potential employers. It shows that you understand and are genuinely interested in the job opportunity. It shows commitment and conscientiousness, and it also demonstrates that you are aware of the organization and how it positions itself in the world.
So what is the best way of preparing yourself? Well, traditionally this might have involved reading organizational materials, Googling them, or visiting their website. These are still beneficial but you can complement these by using social media to gain an even better insight into the organization.
Why Should You Use Social Media?
There are a number of reasons why it is worth spending some time exploring your target organization’s social media, but some of the main ones are:
- Social media is informal – this means you will get a different sense of the organization than you might if you were to read their Annual Report or any other formal materials.
- It provides the opportunities for two-way interaction. This means that if you have a question about the organization then you can ask and hopefully you will get a useful or insightful response.
- Social media can tell you a lot about the organizations’ branding and market positioning.
- It is fantastic for networking: both building new connections, and maximizing the value of your existing connections.
What Do You Need to Research?
The purpose of using social media to prepare for an interview is to make sure that you can wow the interviewers and secure the job. You need to think carefully about what would enable you to achieve this, and this will vary between different organizations. As a starting point think about:
- “What is going on in the organization? What are their big challenges? What successes have they had recently? What are the future implications of this?
- How does the organization present itself? What do you think they are aiming to achieve through their social media? What values or culture can you see shining through their social media content?
- Who are their competitors? What are they doing on social media? What’s working and what isn’t? Are there any opportunities you can spot?
- Who is interviewing you? What are they interested in? Are they part of your network? Is there anyone within your network who can informally advocate on your behalf?
Social media can give you a great insight into the day-to-day workings of the organization and can give you information that can’t easily be acquired from other sources. Make the most of this by asking questions, being interested and thoroughly reading the content they post.
What Platform Should You Use?Different platforms are particularly useful for different things, so ideally you should use an array of different social media during your research. Let’s take a look at some of the main ones and where their particular strengths lie.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is probably your best starting point. Take a look at the organization’s main page to see what articles they are posting, what positions they are recruiting for, and who already works there. LinkedIn is particularly valuable for researching the people who are going to be interviewing you: you can see what their background is and what sort of things they post about under their profile’s Activities section. This can give you the edge in finding common ground and building rapport.
It will also help you think of interesting questions to ask them. Another key benefit of LinkedIn is that you can see who you already know that works there (or knows someone who does). Current employees are a great source of insight into the company, they can tell you what’s important or give you useful tips for success. They might even be able to recommend you to the hiring team.
Twitter: Twitter is great for informal two-way conversations. Follow the organization’s main account but also see if you can find accounts for employees who currently work there. They may share a different perspective or give you valuable inside information.
Don’t be shy about asking questions as Twitter is particularly good for having a conversation. Replying to posts in a constructive and erudite way shows that you are interested and know what you are talking about. Hashtags are a fantastic way of quickly finding out what other people think of the company and you may be able to gain a different perspective.
Facebook and Instagram: Facebook is not dissimilar to Twitter in that it too is informal and promotes two-way dialogue but the tone is different. The longer posts allow the organization (or employees) to share more information. Click ‘like’ to have their regular postings show up in your news feed. Make a note of anything that catches your attention that you might want to follow upon. Facebook also has the nifty and little known ‘Discover People’ feature which allows you to search for people that work for a particular company. FaceBook Groups are also a gold mine!
Some organizations (particularly creative ones) are active on Instagram so it’s worth checking it out and again considering the type of content shared.
How to Use the Information You Gather on Social Media in the Interview
Using the information you came across on social media can help make your interview memorable and leave a strong positive impression with recruiters. The key is to weave the information into your responses and questions. For example, you could say, “I see that you company has sponsored several networking events over the years, is that a useful way of gathering new business?” or perhaps you could slot in some of your extra information into an interview response.
If you were asked about your aspirations for the future, you could say something like, “I noticed that you have recently launched your new leadership development program, it sounds like a great way of building practical expertise and the background knowledge. I’d love to be a part of that someday!”
Don’t Forget to Audit Your Social Media Presence
Just as you are checking out the organization on social media they may well also be checking you out. Make sure that your presence is one that will help rather than hinder your quest for a job. Make sure that photos or images you have used are appropriate, and check your privacy settings. The last thing you need is the recruiting manager to come across some of the more dubious photos of you. But reviewing your social media presence is about more than just hiding the bad bits – it’s also an opportunity to build your credibility and personal brand. Show the recruiters who you are and what an asset you would be to their organization.