At this point the stakes are raised, because you know that the other two or eleven people are also qualified for the job. The decision about who will get the job will now come down to who the interviewers believe will be the best fit for the organization who is the best prepared, who is the most likeable, who seems the most capable, and who is most likely to have the kind of personality that will mesh with the people who already work there.
Several times in this article I have compared the job search to a marketing or sales effort. Here it comes again! What makes you feel most comfortable buying a product? Some of the factors relate directly to the product itself, and some relate to the way that the product is sold. There are hundreds of brands of cigarettes, most made by just a handful of companies. With the exception of a billionth of a milligram of menthol here, or a charcoal versus a plain filter there, the ingredients of cigarettes are pretty much the same. You couldn't tell that by watching smokers purchase them, however. How many commercials have you seen in which a construction worker ambles up to the counter and requests a carton of Virginia Slims? Or a debutante saunters up to the counter in a ball gown and asks for a pack of Luckies? Or some guy in a Mercedes offers his lady one of those generic cigarettes? Each brand is specifically targeted to a particular segment of the population. How a product is marketed makes all the difference in the world in how it is sold.
I'm no techie, but friends who are swear that in the early days the Apple computer had a far superior operating system than the PC did. Everyone seems to agree that Beta was superior technology to VHS. The moral of the story is that the superior product is not always the one that sells the most, and the corollary is that the best person for the job does not always get the job. Usually the person who is best prepared for the interview does.
Doing Your Research
By doing your homework, you can prepare yourself for the interview. You should become familiar with the major trends that are occurring in the field. You will want to know if the field is growing or contracting, as well as which companies or organizations have been doing well and which have not. You also need to research the individual company. How are things going for them? And whenever possible, it helps to know a little something about the person who will be conducting the interview. What are her priorities? What is her background? By answering as many of these questions as you can, you will be more confident and more prepared during your interview.
Researching the Field
Way back when you were in the midst of your self exploration and assessment, and when you were exploring the world of work, you did a great deal of research into various jobs and career fields. You looked through the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the Occupational Outlook Handbook, you contacted professional associations, and you spoke with individuals who were employed in the field. Go back to your notes and refresh your memory. If it's been a while since you initially did this research, use the Internet to see if there is any new information out there on this topic. Reread enough so that you feel confident in your understanding of the field in which you want to work.
You should also go back to those people whom you interviewed as you were gathering information. Let them know that you have been granted an interview, and see if they have any suggestions for you. They may be able to update you on significant new developments in the field that would be helpful for you to know and perhaps make reference to during the interview.
Researching the Company
I'm assuming that you have already done some amount of research on a company if you have applied for a position there. Hopefully you have kept your notes, because they will be a good starting point for you. You will now need to switch into full "fact finding" mode. It is to your advantage to go into an interview with as much information about a company as possible. There are many sources of this kind of information, all with different values.
Company Public Relations Literature
Almost all organizations produce some sort of literature that is intended to inform the public about that organization or the products or services that they offer. Larger companies that are publicly held (their shares are sold on a public stock exchange) will publish an annual report that is sent to stockholders to update them on the recent developments within the company.
If the company doesn't publish an annual report, they may at least be required to file financial disclosure agreements with the Securities and Exchange Commission. You can view these reports at most public libraries. When looking at these reports, or at an annual report, there are certain things that you should be looking for. Has the company been growing in terms of sales, revenues, or earnings? Is the company's market share growing in their product areas? It is advisable to have an understanding of how the company is doing, in the event that this comes up in an interview.
Besides the financial statements, a company's sales brochures can provide a wealth of information as well. These publications will give you the key selling points that distinguish a company's goods or services from those of other companies. They will inform you of what new products or services are being launched, improved, or replaced. You can get these by simply calling the sales department and having them mailed to you.