Why Your Interview Preparation Must Include Social Media Research



by Kourtney Whitehead

Preparing for an interview feels a lot like dating. In each case, two people that don’t know each other well plan to meet and decide if they want to spend more time together.


According to a study of 2,000 Americans, 77% of people researched a potential date on social media prior to their first meeting, looking for insights on their personality, career history, hobbies and shared contacts. They wanted to get a better idea of who they were meeting beforehand, which is understandable.


These days you can learn a lot about someone prior to meeting them. This is an asset in dating, but it can help with your job search as well.


Prior to your job interview, you may research the company, including reading news and Glassdoor reviews. You may even read the bios of the people you are meeting and run a quick Google search. But if you want to increase your chances of connecting, like in dating, you may want to go a bit further in your research.


Researching the public social media activity of your interviewers can substantially help you make a quick and easy connection during your interview. Here’s what you want to look for and how to find it.


Never walk into an interview without first trying to find publicly available professional video clips of the people you are meeting. It is not a guarantee that you will be able to find video, but if you do, it will significantly impact your preparation efforts.


Interviewers make up their mind about a person fairly early into the discussion so starting strong matters. Video is an invaluable tool to help you walk into your meeting already anticipating the person’s communication preferences.


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With this knowledge, you won’t find yourself startled to keep up with a hyper-fast talker or to match your pace with a slower, more monotone speaker. You will already be prepared to adjust your energy and cadence of speech to create a natural flow of conversation.


Finding video clips of people is easier than ever. Simply search for the person’s name and company in Google and then sort the results to show video only. This will grab video clips from social sites like YouTube and Vimeo, along with company websites, personal blogs and news outlets.


Be sure to run additional searches with their name along with other information found in their bio or on LinkedIn, such as previous companies, where they went to college and the city or state they live in. Each search will produce a new set of results which could help you see different sides of their personality.


Images

Search the name of the people you are interviewing with on every social platform you have access to. At a minimum, be sure to look for them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Check to see what, if anything, is publicly available.


On most platforms, profile pictures will be public. Be sure to look at each picture and become familiar with the person you are meeting. LinkedIn and company bio pictures are rarely updated so you are likely to find more recent pictures on other social platforms.


Being familiar with your interviewer’s physical appearance in advance will avoid the possibility of being caught off guard when they come to pick you up at the reception desk or enter your interview room. You will recognize them immediately and initiate a strong first impression.


Hobbies and interests

You may be able to discern their hobbies from their social media pictures or by the interests linked to their profile pages. If there are things you share in common, be prepared to work them into conversation as part of your interests.


You may also gain insight into your interviewer’s upbringing or family priorities. It’s common to find high school or hometown listed on some sites.


If they are the kind of person that makes public posts or are a heavy Twitter user, you may come across personal opinions or lengthy posts that help you better predict their life outlook and even communication style.


But similar to dating, be cautious about putting too much stock into online personas. There is no substitute for a real face-to-face connection. You are using this information only as an additional data point that may help you better anticipate who you are meeting and where to look for common ground.


Mutual connections

Make sure you check for mutual connections with your interviewers on every social site you visit. On LinkedIn, you are more likely to discover professional connections in common. But on Facebook for example, you may discover a different set of overlapping friends.


If you find an opportunity to glean more information about an interviewer from someone you know well, you should take it.


However, use your best judgement about whether to bring up your mutual connection or any of the information you find on social media in your actual interview.


While people know that there is public information out there about them, it can be startling to have a stranger reveal what they found.


Avoid this awkward moment by using your research for your information only. Do not bring it up during your interview, but use it to be fully prepared to make the best impression possible.


Kourtney Whitehead is a career expert and author of Working Whole. You can learn more about her work at Simply Service.

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