Looking back, I can't remember what I did on the night before the interview.
I should have been researching the company. But I wasn't. In hindsight, that's kind of stupid. I was 21, though, and this episode taught me a vital lesson.
So, the next morning, I'm at the interview, and I'm sitting across a table in front of a well-dressed woman, who would have been my line manager.
She asked me:
"Alan, what do you see as the fashion trends right now on campus?"
(I was a college student at the time.)
What did I do? I froze, like a deer in headlights, and then I tried to wing it.
I've forgotten the details. All I remember is that I tried to describe what my college friends wore to class, and I felt very, very, very, very dumb.
When I finished my answer, I looked at the hiring manager as she sat silently, and I could tell from her eyes that she thought I was a moron -- and a fraud.
Needless to say, I never heard back.
Now, if I had my time again, I'd spend an hour or two the night before preparing. I could have done some digging around and found a way to call someone who works as retail buyer, or someone who works with a retail buyer, and gotten the inside scoop. And if that wasn't possible, I could have at least done some research about the role in general and found out what kind of skills and core competencies are required.
Here's the biggest takeaway I want you to get from this story:
Hiring managers are, generally, smart people. They know when you're trying to wing it. They can see it when people like me try to pull the wool over their eyes. And it's something they resent, for good reason.
Spend an hour or two researching the role so that you're prepared.
I included some tips above. However, if you'd like a 6-step checklist you can follow, one that points you to specific resources and takes you through all the research one step at a time, then you might want to take a look at the "Research" section of Interview Success Formula.