An attractive woman sits in her beautiful home whist preparing for an upcoming job interview

How Can LinkedIn Help You Prepare for a Job Interview?

Joel Mason
Interviews

How Can LinkedIn Help You Prepare for a Job Interview?

Joel Mason • Nov 07, 2022

We all know that LinkedIn is a very useful tool for job-seekers, from optimising our profiles to attract recruiters, to applying for the many roles advertised on the platform. But, did you know that LinkedIn is also one of the best resources for preparing for a job interview?

Below the surface, LinkedIn is a goldmine of valuable information. With a little out-of-the-box thinking and some good old-fashioned detective work, LinkedIn can offer up a wealth of information that can help you get interview-ready.

As recruiters, we became experienced in using LinkedIn to conduct research and we’ve distilled our top tips for getting the most out of LinkedIn as a pre-interview research tool.

Important Disclosure: We are affiliates for some of the products and services referenced in this article, if you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more over here.

Put a Face to a Name

If you have been called for an interview you will likely have been given the full names of the people conducting the interview. If you haven’t, then it is perfectly reasonable to ask for a list of names of the people interviewing you. Your first step is to take these names and find the individuals on LinkedIn. This may sound obvious, but the first place to start is to take a look at their LinkedIn profile picture.

Why? Well, the reality is we get nervous in situations where we do not know what to expect. The less we know about the situation we are going into, the more nervous we are. When we have no idea about who will be interviewing us, including what they look like, we feel less confident.

When we can put a face to a name we are able to build in a degree of familiarity. It’s a lot easier meeting someone for the first time when you already know what they look like. It makes the individual feel more familiar to us and helps us to feel more confident.

If you are worried about them knowing you have taken a peek at their LinkedIn profile, don’t be. You will be expected to do some research, in fact, it will demonstrate that you are proactive, forward-thinking and genuinely interested in the role. Plus, they will more than likely have taken a look at your profile too so make sure it’s looking the best it can.

I have done this in the past and have found it very helpful, especially when I have interviewed in less formal settings such as a coffee shop, it really helps to have an idea of what the person looks like when trying to find them in a crowded room.


Understand Their Agenda

It’s obvious that an interviewer, particularly if they are the hiring manager, will have an agenda. There will be certain things that they are looking for that go beyond simple qualifications or experience. Ultimately, they will be looking to achieve something within the organisation or team and will want to hire someone who can help them achieve it.

If you can gain some insight into what is motivating and driving the interviewer you will be in a much better position to connect with them and to speak their language. If you can leave them feeling like you are someone who understands their goals and can help fulfil them, you will be in a very strong position to land the role.

This may sound very difficult; however, a thorough examination of someone’s LinkedIn page can offer some helpful clues:

‍► Take a Look at Their Background and Career Progression

Understanding someone’s career progression can give you some real insight into what motivates them. It will also give you insight into the kind of questions that they may ask you and where their focus might lie.

For example, if someone has a sales background, even though they may now be the MD or CEO, they will likely still think like a salesperson and therefore be interested in figures and results, so you would need to make sure you have your numbers to hand.

If someone has an HR background they are quite likely to be assessing your cultural fit for the organisation, they will want to know how you work with others, how you have handled conflict, what your career goals and aspirations are and potentially your salary expectations.

Someone with a technical or financial background may be much more detail-oriented and will expect you to talk through processes in a structured manner, so consider this when drafting out your examples.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and consider how they might think and what their priorities may be.

I often find that the more senior a person is, the more you can learn from their LinkedIn profile. This is because executive leaders will often have a clearly defined vision and will articulate this on their profile. Many CEOs’ LinkedIn profiles can be viewed as a microcosm of the company culture and values.

► Study Their LinkedIn Activity

A lot of people are active on LinkedIn so check to see if the person interviewing you has been posting, commenting, liking or even writing articles. To the keen observer, all of this can offer up valuable information.

We once coached a client through an interview process with a major FMCG company. His final interview was with the CEO and together we studied his LinkedIn profile. Our client was surprised at just how active the CEO was on LinkedIn, by studying his posts and his comments along with understanding his career progression, it was clear that this individual was passionate about building global brands, he was a brand-builder through and through. Our client was not going for a marketing role; however, it was clear that his interviewer would be speaking the language of a marketeer and would want to know how my client would help him to create a globally-trusted and recognised brand.

People’s social media accounts tell their stories, they expose their passions, motivations and drivers and can offer us great insight into how they see the world. This is all such valuable information for anyone who wants to prepare well for an interview.

Find Common Ground

Common ground is immensely powerful. We all love to meet people who come from the same city as us, who have connections in common, shared interests or who have studied at the same university.

This is because we feel comfortable with these people, we feel as though we are on the same page, it builds trust and removes degrees of separation between us. When we find we have something in common with somebody, they cease to be a total stranger and suddenly feel more familiar.

If you want to break the ice in an interview and want to be memorable, find common ground! Again, LinkedIn can help us here.

The aim here is not to fake it. but to identify actual areas of interest that you have in common or subjects that you can legitimately chat about, these are great conversation starters.

Look at Their Education

If you studied in the same place or studied the same subjects you have instant common ground. People’s education is very important to them and they love to talk about it. If you studied in the same place or took similar subjects you have an instant topic of conversation and potentially a lot in common. Briefly reminiscing together can create a strong connection and you will be a lot less forgettable than other candidates.

Where Are They From?

Have you ever met someone who comes from the same area as you? It’s an instant connection. You will likely have frequented the same places, have similar memories, and maybe even know some of the same people. Look to see if they have listed their high-school details on their LinkedIn, this will give you a good indication of where they are from. Remember, people want to see that you have done your research so don’t be shy about saying “when I looked at your LinkedIn profile I noticed that you are from…”

► Where Have They Worked in the Past?

If you are interviewing within a specific industry you may well find that you have both worked for the same company in the past, even if it was not at the same time. This is another great conversation starter.

Do You Have Any Shared Connections?

Look at who they are connected with, but be cautious here as most people do not actually ‘know’ all of their connections. It can be quite awkward to mention a shared connection and find that the other person has no idea who that person is.

To find genuine shared connections, you can look at their recommendations (who they have recommended and who recommended them), these are people who they are sure to have some level of relationship with. You can also look at their activity again and make note of who’s posts they comment on. If you are applying for a role within your industry, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that you may know some of the same people. If you have worked with some of the same people be sure to bring it up. This will help you move from being a complete stranger to someone who moves in similar circles.

Think about it, hiring a complete stranger is always a risk to a hiring manager, however, hiring someone with whom you share connections feels a lot less risky. You instantly become more of a known commodity. 

► Read Their Whole Profile

We’ve already talked about looking through someone’s profile and career progression to understand their agenda and what is important to them but there may also be information here that will help you find common ground. Take a look at their interests, their volunteer activity and any other sections they’ve completed to check whether you share any interests or passions.

If you don’t have any common ground with someone, then that is okay too. Don’t fake it, the aim is to form some genuine connection and so you need to be yourself and be natural. Taking time to consider the people that you will be speaking to and becoming more familiar with them is a very important use of your time. It is an exercise that can yield a great deal of useful information if done well.

Try to be creative in this process, and take some time to do some deep-dive research until you feel you know all you can about the person interviewing you. Do they have a blog? Have they listed their website address or Twitter feed on LinkedIn, have they written any articles? All of these pieces of information can be accessed to get a fuller picture of the person interviewing you.

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Gauge the Culture

Now that you have learned all you can about the individual(s) interviewing you, turn your attention to the organisation itself.

It will be expected of you to do a lot of research into the organisation for which you are applying. It’s also a useful exercise in determining if this is really the place for you.

 

Have a Look at the Profiles of Those Who Work in the Organisation

I would not be too worried about people knowing that I have viewed their profiles, after all, this is what LinkedIn is for. However, if you are worried, simply change your settings to private. You can do this by accessing ‘settings and privacy, clicking on ‘visibility’ and changing ‘profile viewing options’ to ‘private mode’.

Gaining some insight into an organisation’s current employees can give you a great deal of insight into the culture and the hiring practices of an organisation.

Consider some of these questions when having a look through profiles; does this company like to hire people from certain backgrounds, organisations or disciplines? How are people dressed in their profile pictures, are they very formal, are they less formal? Does this company or department prefer certain academic qualifications? What kinds of content do employees post?

Throughout your interview, the interviewer will be assessing whether or not you are a good cultural fit for the organisation or team that they are hiring for. Cultural fit is very important as employers do not want recruits leaving because they simply do not fit in.

Delving into the profiles of current employees can give you a good insight into what the culture is like and what they are looking for.

And more importantly, it can also give you an indication as to whether you want to work for the organisation.

► Do You Know Anyone in the Organisation? Do You Have Any Connections?

If you have discovered that you have a contact or connection already in the organisation (or who has worked there previously) this is a fantastic opportunity to reach out and ask for some insight and advice.

Offer to take them for a coffee or ask if you might give them a call. Be up-front and honest with them, tell them that you are applying for a role in their organisation and would appreciate if they could answer a couple of questions for you. Prepare your questions well so that you don’t waste their time and the opportunity.

Look Into the History of the Role You Are Interviewing For

This can be very eye-opening. Search for the job title and then input the company name in ‘past companies’. Make note of how long people stay in the role, whether they are promoted or whether they leave the organisation. If no one stays in the role for longer than a year then this could be a warning sign and you may want to get some clarity on this in the interview. Just as a candidate that moves from company to company every 6 – 12 months may have unresolved issues, a company which is rehiring the same position every 6 – 12 months may also have issues.

► Check Out the Company Page

A company’s LinkedIn page can be a great source of insight and a great place to conduct some creative research.

Pay attention to the content that they have been posting. What do their articles, updates and posts tell you about the direction that the organisation is headed in? What challenges do they seem to be facing? What problems are they looking to overcome?

Remember, your interview is your opportunity to demonstrate your ability to help them overcome their challenges and help solve their problems. A little insight into what these are will help you decide what to highlight and focus on in your interview.

Let this take you to some wider industry content and insights. Use LinkedIn to research their competitors, look at industry news and articles. The more you know about what’s taking place within their world, the more of an expert you will appear when answering their questions and you will also be able to ask more intelligent and insightful questions of them.

How to Search

We’ve given you lots of areas to research but you might be wondering how to do it. Here are some quick tips: 


► Get LinkedIn Learning/Premium

Without it, you will be restricted to the amount of searching you can do. The first month is free and so if you haven’t used your free trial, an upcoming interview is the perfect opportunity to do so. Get a free trial of LinkedIn Premium here.

► Use the Desktop Version of LinkedIn (Not the App)

Select ‘all filters’ when searching. This will bring up a full search bar where you can search by a wide range of filters including ‘current companies’, ‘past companies’, ‘location’ and ‘job title’.

► Use Boolean Searches

LinkedIn has inbuilt Boolean searching capacity for you to further refine your searches using more advanced search terms – You can find full instructions here.

 

Conclusion

LinkedIn holds a wealth of information for those who know how to mine its resources. Think outside of the box and as you gather information ask the question “what does this tell me about the person I am meeting or the organisation that I am interviewing with?”

The more prepared and knowledgeable we are about a situation the less nervous we feel and the more confident we come across.

In my experience interviewers like it when candidates prepare, they are often frustrated when they feel that a candidate has not taken the time to understand the role, the organisation, the industry, or the challenges that it currently faces.

Do not be afraid to highlight your preparation by saying things like “when doing my research, I realised that…” or “when I was looking at the team on LinkedIn I noticed…” this will demonstrate that you are taking the opportunity and the interview very seriously.

Also, take notes! This can be especially useful if you are interviewing virtually as you can have the notes in front of you and refer to them when necessary.

So, when your next interview approaches, become a LinkedIn detective, you might be surprised at just how much useful information is buried on the platform!

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