You’re about to have an interview in America, either a school admissions interview or a job interview. You have the name and contact info of your interviewer. You want to talk to them before the interview to get to know them. Is this a good idea?
I've worked with many internationals who want to get into prestigious U.S. schools or get a job at an American company. I've seen similar challenges come up over and over again when they talk to their interviewers before the interview.
And this is why I've come up with my #1 rule:
Don't contact your interviewer before the interview
In my opinion, you should NOT contact your interviewer before the interview.
Don't do it.
Even if you know their name and have their contact info, don't do it.
You can talk to them to make arrangements
...if necessary. This is common when being interviewed by an alumni interviewer at a school.
But not for any other reason
Why is it a bad idea to contact them?
Because they may prefer to talk to their interviewees in the interview only.
Interviewing people is a job
Think about this - interviewing is their job. Talking to you outside the interview is extra work. Do you want to do extra work? Probably not.
It's hard to know their opinion about this, so make the safe choice and don't contact them except to make the arrangements.
Like I said above, you may need to talk to your interviewer to make arrangements for meeting. This is most common when being interviewed by a school's alumni interviewer. With job interviews, usually the company makes the arrangements for you.
If you need to talk to them to make arrangements, use the contact info you are given and keep it simple.
A simple email template for making arrangements:
Hello. My name is ____________ and I understand that you are going to interview me. Please let me know when and where you would like to meet.
I look forward to meeting you.
Thanks very much,
Don't contact them, but do research them. It will help you to know about your interviewer before the interview.
- First you can try Googling them. (This may be hard if they have a common name.)
- Then look for their LinkedIn profile. Should you connect with them on LinkedIn? Sure, as long as your profile is good enough to impress them.
- Next you can also look for their social media profiles.
If you can find information about them, write it down and use it as part of your interview preparation process.
Social media-specific rules
If you do decide to talk to them or you are researching them by looking at their social media profiles, remember these things:
If you friend or follow someone, they will probably notice you and read your profile. If you make a bad impression, they will remember you when you meet them for the interview.
Remember that the internet is public. Schools search for you on Google and make notes about you, as do companies. If you use social media to contact interviewers, they will have access to your profile. Everything on it should be professional. Even if you are a high school student.
I know social media feels like a place you can "relax," but this is only true if you are talking to your friends. If you are talking to people you have professional relationships with, like school admissions officers or company executives, you need to behave politely and respectfully. If you don't, they will remember you and you will not get into school or get the job.
Use a profile photo
I see many social media profiles that don't have a photo at all. Do not do this. We all like to “see” who we're talking to. It’s easy to do and having a picture makes you look professional.
Use your real photo
I also see profile photos that use celebrities, animals, cartoon characters, or photos of people who are clearly models. Please don't do this if you want to use your profile professionally (if you are applying to college and using your profile to contact admissions officials, this is professional use).
We know these photos are not you. We know that Harry Potter and Prince William do not want to be friends with us. If you use a fake photo you will get attention, but it won't be the good kind.
Use your real name
Your interviewer knows that "Myste Rious" and "Whitee Sharkk" are not real people. You're funny, but not funny in a good way. Again, be professional.
Don't friend their personal profiles
If you want to friend or follow someone, make sure you are connecting with their business profile - not their personal one. People who deal with a lot of students - like teachers and admissions officials - often have two accounts, one for work and one for personal use. Does it have the logo of the school on it and pictures of the students? Then it's okay. Is it full of pictures of their children and pets? Then it's not okay. If you aren't sure, don't try.
This is why you need to be careful about friending someone. You don't want to annoy them.
Your goal: make a good impression
The most important thing to remember is that you are trying to make a good impression. In other words, you want the interviewer to like you. You can encourage them to like you by being polite and professional before you even meet them for the interview, and by taking up as little of their time as possible outside the interview.
One of the reasons I started my company is that I interviewed so many talented people who didn't get the job because they didn't know these basic communication rules. I know that with some coaching you can learn how to make a good impression on American interviewers, even if you're not familiar with American culture.
Interview Genie is an interview prep company. I specialize in coaching non-native English speakers for admissions interviews or job interviews.