How to Ace an Interview with 'Insider Information'?

Magnifying Glass as Metaphor for Interview ResearchThere are some job seekers who seem to know exactly how to ace their interview. Their answers laser-focus on the key points the interviewer cares about. You too can have such answers and become an interview ace, if you prepare the right way.

Yes, getting ready for a job interview can be pretty stressful. It seems like there is a ton of research to complete and an infinite number of questions to be ready for. Yet, there are shortcuts. These shortcuts can not only save you time, they can also give you the confidence your job interview answers are targeted to the position you want.

If you want to land that dream job, here's one factor that can completely change the game. Learn from someone who is already familiar with the organization's hiring process. Let him or her tell you what the organization cares about, what information you must gather, and what questions to expect.

Now, you may be worried about how you do this, how you find that insider, and gain the information you need. Good news. Winning this advantage is easier than you think. You have a number of options at your disposal.

Let's walk through it:


1. Find someone or a few people who work at the company, used to work there, or know it really well (a big customer, a supplier, or a competitor). To do this:

  • Send out a message to your family and friends, and see whether they know someone who fits into one of these categories.
    A quick e-mail can work - something like, "Hi everyone, as you probably already know, I'm looking to switch jobs and have an interview with Partners LLC. I really want to land this job offer. Would you happen to know someone who works there, whom I could chat with for a few minutes?"
  • Go back to your college or even your high school, and see whether their alumni directory lists someone who worked for that firm. Since schools really care about alumni donations, they are often highly supportive of helping alumni in the job search. If you need a password or anything else to get onto their system, just ask, and they will quickly accommodate you.
  • Or hunt down people on LinkedIn and Twitter and reach out to them. Start out by looking on the LinkedIn company page, then move to other relevant groups. Look for the LinkedIn profiles of the people you are likely to work with.
  • On Twitter, search for the company name and research individuals who have big names in the industry. See who they are following, and poke around on their material. Look for common interests or activities between you and them. These commonalities can help start the conversation.
  • Search for videos on YouTube or by simply doing a Google Videos search for the company name. Pay attention to what these employees say, about their organizations' goals and ambitions. Listen to the language they use and what they seem excited about.

Once you've gathered this background info, you're positioned for an introduction:



2. Reach out to these folks. Tell them that you are very excited to have an interview and want to make sure you have a solid understanding of the organization. You'd really appreciate 15-20 minutes of their time for some quick questions.

Remember the information you gain from this person will differentiate your from every other job seeker. If they don't respond to this initial request, it's important that you follow up. Many times, busy people won't reply until a second or third request.

So, a few days after an unsuccessful first attempt, send a polite follow-up note. Reply to your original message and add to the top of it: "Hi, I know you're busy, so I just want to follow up and see if it's still possible to have a quick conversation." No response? Try a third time a few days later.

Insider Insights

3. Have a conversation with this person, and take notes. Keep it to no more than 20 minutes. You want him or her to wish that you had stayed on the phone longer. Unfortunately, you can't just outright ask that person how to land a job offer with his or her company. To guide you in the right direction, ask questions similar to a job interview, but a lot more general:

  • What's it like to work at this organization?
  • What are the types of projects that you've done?
  • How would you say this company is unique?
  • How does someone who works here become successful?
  • If you were in my shoes, what suggestions would you make about how to prepare for a job interview?

Then conclude with, "I don't want to take too much of your time, and I really appreciate all your help."

Take lots of notes. Pay attention to the words he or she uses, so you can include them in your answers during your interview.


While preparing for your upcoming interview, review the information that they provided you. Evaluate the challenges that the organization is facing. Research the topics until you can speak intelligently about them in the interview. Consider how this information will fit into your answers. Think about how you would solve these problems and what skills you have to help. Think about what interview questions they might ask you to show your expertise in their areas of need.

Prepare examples of your past experiences and accomplishments that will fit with their goals. Consider what strategies and approaches you can suggest to take them from where they are now to where they want to be.

Also, consider the reasons why this organization is unique. Reflect on how these aspects connect to what you want in a job. Then, connect who you are with the job qualifications that this person told you about. Develop stories to prove those connections.

Finally, prepare questions to ask that show you've done your homework.

Ace Your Interview

You've invested the time to focus on the key aspects of this job and this organization. Demonstrate it to the interviewer. (And, if you had a good conversation with your insider, don't be afraid to mention this person's name.)

To walk in to your next interview even more prepared, take a look at this: