Tuesday, July 1, 2014
I have been applying for jobs. And before every job interview, whether initial phone conversation or in-person, I do some company research. In the past, this has typically involved looking at the company's website, reading more in depth about the job opening/qualifications, and taking a cursory glance at the staff member listing.
But recently I have begun to take my interview preparations one step further: I search out the person I am interviewing with. I not only Google the person, find him or her on the company webpage, and check out a LinkedIn profile, but I really look into the person. I find my interviewer on Facebook, read any article written about him or her, search for press releases, and even Google image search for head-shots. I like to know who I'm going to be speaking (and possibly working) with. I have gone so far in my due diligence that once I actually predicted a director would be leaving the company (I was interviewing to be her replacement) to go on to graduate school. When I mentioned this in the interview, she said I was the second person to make that connection. I guess my behavior is pretty normal.
Which is the main point my internet research is beginning to make clear; I will find out about you. When I worked at my former company, I would search for the current addresses of individual donors who had recently moved. Nine times out of ten, I would find the donor's new address, along with how much she paid for her house, the names of her children, and the city she was born in. I know that sounds creepy, but it was all just to send out an annual appeal letter to the correct address. I did develop a reputation among my co-workers for being able to find anyone, though. But that's because it's easy to be found.
And it is now the norm. I remember interviewing roommates years ago. I'd search out each candidate on social media sites. The same thing was true with someone I was going on a date with, or even with simple acquaintances. I now try to limit my internet stalking for job interviews, as I cannot confidently enter into the interview unprepared. But we all know that being given access to someone's complete and legal name is a free pass to search out the person via Google.
I used to think that it was possible and easy to live off the grid. If you don't want someone to find you, stay off the internet; don't join any social media sites and don't give your name to articles/quotations that may be published about you. While I welcome comments on my blog posts, beware of publishing anything with your full name. You never know what I might (and will) find about you.
I just found out that "off the grid" no longer means what I thought it did; "off grid" now refers to the millions of people living locally. Off Grid is one, among many, such website that includes various bloggers giving tips on how to live locally. Except in the state of Florida, where living off grid illegal. All homes must now be connected to a utility grid. This means all residents must be connected to a system and pay into this system. No more hiding in a cabin the woods, or not having a physical address to receive mail and bills. Everyone leaves a footprint. And there are millions of us on the other end, tracking it.
Not to scare you. I only use my internet stalking powers for good. To get to know you before meeting you and trying to convince you to hire/date/live with me. This is completely normal behavior; and actually, almost to be expected. Almost.
So while there is a fine line between cyber-stalking and conducting research, every single job search website lists researching your interviewers by finding bios and social network links as a "must do." Idealist, Monster, and Indeed specifically recommend, "You may find bio pages or press releases that give you insight into their most visible activities at the company. Then look to LinkedIn or do a general Web search to get some more background information about them." That looks like a green light to continue preparing myself in this fashion for upcoming interviews. But perhaps I'll put my default to research everyone mentality aside. And let real life people show me who they are.
To read more about acceptable job interview preparations, check out: http://career-advice.monster.com/job-interview/interview-preparation/interview-company-research/article.aspx