In my younger days, when I was called for an interview, I would search my memory about what I know about the company and then showed up for the interview.
About 10 years ago, I had a very memorable experience. That time I was asked to interview an upper-middle (the American penchant for deep management!!) level manager from Big Blue for a sister (why do we use a feminine analogy here?) division on a second round of interviews. I have never met him before but he impressed the heck out of me when he mentioned the papers that I had published a few years back with my advisor. Now, you have to realize that he was not in my technical field and he himself has been a non-technical manager a long time. I found out that he had a search done on me and found my papers and did manage to at least scan through a few of them. Talking to the other people who interviewed him, we were all impressed on the homework that he has done on all of us. Now, this is one prepared interviewee! By the way he was offered the job but decided not to take it because of family reasons.
I decided that in the future prior to going out on an interview, I will try to be as prepared as this manager from Big Blue. So what do I do?
1. when the interview is set up, I try to get the name of the people I will be interviewing with
2. I go to the local library and go to the reference section and pull out all the business registries that I can get my hand on. I will find out as much as I can about the companies, its executives (CEO, COO/Pres, relevant VP's), its performance over the past 6 months and 1 year (revenues, profit, number of employees) and the company philosophy.
3. Next I will use the library index search of past newspaper and magazine articles, available at libraries on CD-ROM, to find out about the company and the industry/product that I will be associated with. Your library may also have access to database search. They can sometime do it for free. Check them out.
4. I may also go to the university library and search the IEEE (or similar) publication index for the past 10 years to find out about the publications of the people I will be talking to. If you can, get a copy of the publication and at least read the summary.
5. The IEEE or similar directories will give you a little bit more information about the people. From the fact that they were a student member until 199x, and then a member after that, you can work out that they must have graduated in 199x and you can mentally form a picture of their age. You may also get information about the department/division that they are currently associated with. You may also get their job title from such directories.
6. If I know a good friend or former colleague who has worked or is working at that company, I will give him a call to get some insight into the people I will be talking to. If you do not want to tip off your friend of your interview, then use an indirect approach to get the information.
7. Nowadays (I have not done this yet) I will try to get on the internet and do a www search on the company and the industry.
8. If you are using an employment/placement agency, you can ask them to do the searches in #2-3 for you.
9. This is along a different line, but it is part of the prep for an interview. You may want to have a collection of photographs or reprints of articles of your work. In this area be careful that what you bring along with you is not considered company proprietary. Thus, don't bring along source code, unless it is a very small code segment. Brochures and manuals are great because they are public and show the product in its full glory. If your company gives away sample software, bring along a copy of those you have worked on. If you have published, then a list of publication and a couple of relevant (to the job you are interviewing for) reprints are in order.
Of course being prepared, does not guarantee that you will get the job if you are not qualified, but it will make a heck of a difference if there is competition for the position.
I hope this article is helpful to you. It is my sincere wish that all VACET members can impress their interviewees by their knowledge of the company and the people. Good luck to those who are interviewing!