Posted Online: Oct. 06, 2011, 3:19 pm

Hit The Books

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By Dawn Klingensmith CTW Features

Most job seekers show up to interviews well prepared to talk about themselves. Not so many arrive prepared to talk about their prospective new employer.

Knowing little or nothing about a company is a common mistake. Nearly four in 10 hiring authorities polled said lack of knowledge about the company was the most common shortcoming among interviewees, according to a survey of 1,000 senior managers by the global staffing agency Accountemps, Menlo Park, Calif.

By comparison, 20 percent said the most common error was being unprepared to discuss skills and experience, followed by inability to discuss career plans and goals (14 percent); not making eye contact (10 percent); arriving late (9 percent); and lacking enthusiasm (9 percent).

“Knowing about an organization’s services, history, goals and business challenges when you walk into an interview shows initiative and will allow you to make a stronger case for how you can contribute to the firm’s success,” says Accountemps chairman Max Messmer. “Thorough preparation also helps jobseekers ask the right questions to determine if the opportunity is a good fit.”

What sort of information are job candidates expected to know? “At the most basic level, visit the company website to find out who they are and what they do,” says Steven Raz, co-founder and managing partner, Cornerstone Search Group, Parsippany, N.J.

Understand the products or services a company offers and a bit about the company’s mission and history, including major milestones.

Candidates should also be up to speed on recent news involving the company. The website may have a section with news releases and press coverage. Candidates can also do a Google News search and check Twitter for mentions. (You don’t need a Twitter account to conduct a search.)

Candidates should find out who the company’s competitors are and what challenges the industry as a whole, and the company in particular, are up against, says Brett Good, senior district president, Accountemps. Check the company’s Facebook page and the LinkedIn profiles of the hiring manager and key employees.

Perhaps most important, understand why the organization is hiring, says Good. Companies seek additional staff for just a handful of reasons: to identify new revenue streams, preserve clients, increase productivity or efficiency, or to satisfy regulatory requirements.

“Think about how your role fits into one of those categories or buckets,” he says, “and how your skill set can bring about the desired results.”