How to Ace an Interview in 1 Hour

by JT McGee

Over the summer I had an informal “interview” you might say.

We met for lunch to discuss potential internship opportunities, as well as paid positions as the company develops a new product and department in my city.

It went well – really well. And it only took a few minutes time to make it all happen.

Resources for Owning an Interview

The internet has made everything easier than it used to be. Studying up for interviews is absolutely included in this list of things made easier.

Here are just a few of the things I read and investigated before going to the interview:

  1. Form 10-Q – This is valuable for any job with any publicly-traded company, or with any company that has publicly-traded competitors. The Form 10-Q is a quarterly report of business operations and accounting information related to the most previous quarter. In it, you find the company’s business model, as well as additional information that can make you look like Einstein in an interview setting. Look specifically at the risks stated in the 10-Q about the business itself. This is a great way to know about all the emerging products or services in your potential employer’s industry. Businesses are required to list additional risks like exchange rate fluctuations or potential supply chain disruptions. If you see this stated risk, you know the firm is international in some respect. Find out how, where, and why.
    Pro Tip: Yahoo Finance makes it really easy to find 10-Q filings for any company.

  3. Conference calls – I listened to a conference call between investors and the company’s senior members. This is an excellent way to catch up on the history of the firm in 20 minutes of questions and answers. Analysts are always quick to probe executives as to what is going on when and where. In particular, they want to know if the previous goals set by the firm are still in place today. (i.e. Is the new expansion in XYZ place still in the works?) This is also a good way to know a lot more about a firm than what you read in the press.
    Pro Tip: You can find conference calls on a company’s website in the “Investor Relations” section. Alternatively, search SeekingAlpha for a transcript of the company’s most recent conference call.

  5. Wikipedia – If it’s a big company, it has a Wikipedia page. If it’s huge, the founder has a Wikipedia page. You would be an absolute fool not to learn about all the key executives that work for a firm, their story, and the story of the company.
  6. Google News – Again, search the company name to find new and emerging products and services the company is rolling out.
    Pro Tip: Searching Google News for the company name as well as the words “press release” is a good way to drill down to get all their most recent releases about the company’s activity.

Wait – You’re Not Supposed to Ask THAT!

A few minutes into the interview I was asked point-blank if I had visited the company’s website. Now, usually this is something employers ask about indirectly by testing your knowledge of the company. It caught me off-guard – to be asked this question directly is an indication that others the manager had spoken to had not bothered to do even most basic research.

Later, he lamented that I was “talking on a whole different level” compared to others interviewees. Don’t get me wrong, I will take a compliment any way it comes, but I felt undeserving. All I had to do was use Google to read about the company and the business model to beat the others?

I mean, are you kidding me? That would be considered cheating in school, lazy to my professors, and merely resourceful at work.

Let’s make something very clear – this is a financial firm and I prepared by casually perusing their public financial statements. At least 95% of the people who would show up to an interview would be finance and accounting majors. Accounting and finance majors know what a financial statement is…I hope.

It’s Easy to Get any Job You Want

Now I get it – despite the long-run benefits of employment, the short-run costs apparently appear too high. A job is just a job, right? Who cares about being employable?

I can’t imagine not preparing for an interview. I’m not one to get stressed, but this might just make me pull my hair out. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the hour’s time I put into learning about the company and it’s business put me in a much better position than others. Until I experience something to lead me to the contrary, I’m going to keep on using the above resources for any interview or sales call.


What resources have you used to give you a leg up in an interview?

Do people really go into interviews completely unprepared?

Photo by: Earls37a

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

krantcents January 30, 2012 at 18:08

Do people really go into interviews completely unprepared? The short answer is yes! When I interviewed candidates, I saw people who were not dressed appropriately, bad handshake and could not look me in the eye. In addition, they did not answer the questions very well.

When I was a candidate, I had poor interviewers that I had to school. I took control of the interview and answered question the interviewer did not even ask. There is plenty of that out there.

Preparation shows your desire for the job and goes a long way to make you a better candidate.


JT January 31, 2012 at 13:38

Thanks for your comment, Krantcents. You’ve definitely been around the block on both sides of the interview. What’s a handshake worth, in your opinion? $10,000!?!


World of Finance January 30, 2012 at 22:28

Great article JT. The conference also should have a great visual presentation that is posted in the investor relations section of public company websites. Just another idea. I find these very helpful when learning about a company’s current position and understanding other competitors as well. Sounds like you will have a great career in front of you, as you are a step ahead of many. People are just plain lazy. If they want the job bad enough, they should take the time to prepare. Rocket science isn’t it 😉


JT January 31, 2012 at 13:29

I forgot about those presentations that go alongside the conference calls, thanks! When I do hop on a call, I’d say about 99% of the time I don’t open those things, but if you’re a visual person who wants to see what is being said, those can definitely be valuable! I guess for this purpose too you could easily print those out to look over at another time.


LaTisha January 31, 2012 at 07:07

Yeah, it’s interesting to see the competition and when you realize that 50% of the interview is just showing up, you see that you are already ahead. And by showing up I mean take a second to look at the website, prepare some questions and think about how you could bring value. I actually had a post in this topic planned for Yakezie…. I’ll have to link back here.


JT January 31, 2012 at 13:36

LOL – you know, that was my major takeaway too. Showing up is 50% of it, dressing the part is another 25%. And maybe a little charisma and actually caring about the job pushes you over the top. I’m looking forward to reading your post.


PK January 31, 2012 at 12:02

JT, You’re Doing It Right.

It’s amazing what a little preparation will do. Back when I was interviewing, I would always review programming concepts before in person or phone interviews – and I would always try to have a grasp of a company’s direction. It seems pretty basic – and in an era with still-high unemployment? How can it hurt to do a little research?

Side note, the government should file a 10Q. I’m just saying.


JT January 31, 2012 at 13:37

So simple, yet so effective. Certainly, unemployment isn’t very high in your sector, but competition definitely makes it tough. Think you’d have a job without preparing?

Government should file a 10Q. Let’s lobby Congress for that!


Shawanda @ You Have More Than You Think January 31, 2012 at 18:55

I think it’s so important to know your potential employer. Nowadays, I’d check to see if the person I was interviewing with had a blog or a Twitter account or a Pinterest board or whatever. If they have any sense, they’ve googled me. Why not google them? I’d do the research on the company and arrive at the interview with a list of company specific questions in hand.

You’d be surprised at how little people know about the company they’re interviewing with and how little they know about themselves. If I ask an interviewee to “give me an example of a time when you _____ and how you handled it,” I want a step by step, detailed explanation of what you did. Not some vague response.

Certain questions are to be expected. I’m pretty aggressive in a job search. So, I anticipate what I’ll be asked and rehearse what I’m going to say in front of the mirror. It’s strange to some, but I come across as very confident and knowledgeable in job interviews. And most important, it works.


JT McGee February 2, 2012 at 13:26

Googling people is a great idea. No better way to make a connection to just happen to know the latest scores of the team the interviewer likes, or what kind of stuff they dig on Pinterest. Good call.

I’m curious – what difference does a mirror make in practicing for an interview or speech. I’ve heard that a lot, but never really understood?


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