Phone Interview Rule #3: The Truth is Out There

When it comes to job interviewing, a huge benefit of social media is that you can discover so much about a person and an organization before you ever have a conversation about employment.

The wonder is why do so few candidates actually take the time to do the research.

Earlier, we discussed why you should not say Hello when answering the phone for an interview. Then, we shared valuable and safe tips for setting up the right environment for your phone interview.

This is the third blog post in my series on phone interview strategy. We’ll call it The Truth is Out There. And this particular advice applies not only to phone interviews, but also to in-person interviews (informational and formal).

My best interview with a job seeker this year is still clear in mind. Why? She knew all about me and my company.

I’m not saying she dug up embarrassing photos of me from high school on Facebook. I’m saying she discovered information that was meant to be found.

And if she can uncover everything she needs to know about a start-up company and entrepreneur in Virginia, there is no excuse for any candidate not to be able to find information on publically traded companies, large non-profit organizations, and the personnel who work there.

So, as a job candidate, what should you be looking for and where?

Your research needs to be primary two-fold:

1. Professional information about the person

2. Current information about the organization

Today, let’s focus on just the person to keep this post from being too long. I’ll follow up with another blog post on what to look for in the organization.

The Person

The most appropriate place to start is LinkedIn. Most professionals now have a professional “public profile”. Here is mine:

On a side note, the good folks at LinkedIn actually lost my identity earlier this year. Seriously. My account and profile just disappeared. Talk about X-Files. I remember my conversation with LinkedIn clearly…

“Hi, this is Brent Peterson in Richmond, Virginia. My LinkedIn account is well… gone.”

“Are you Brent Peterson in Salt Lake City?”

“Uh, no. I’m in Virginia.”


“Uh no, I’m Brent Peterson in Virginia.”

“Los Angeles?”

“Uh, no. I’m in Richmond.”


The conversation just went on… there are 75 other Brent Petersons!

With a smile and a little confusion… I just said, “That’s ok. I’ll set up a new account.” I chalked it up to a new beginning.

Back to the blog post…

So what can you look for in a LinkedIn profile:

1. How long the person has worked at your target place of employment

2. Where she worked before

3. Where he went to school (people love to talk about their alma mater!)

4. What they are reading

5. LinkedIn groups they are part of

6. Who they are connected to

7. Who has recommended them

8. What they are currently doing (status update)

9. Professional / Personal blog

10. Twitter account

Talk about a gold mine! I recognize that some professionals are not as forthcoming with their professional information as others, but at a minimum, you should be able to discover their work history and where they went to college.

So how can you use this information to your advantage?

Let me give you a few examples for your interview (great way to break the ice on the phone – after you don’t say Hello!):

1. “I noticed in your LinkedIn profile that you went to Michigan. My uncle went there too. Huge Big Blue fan.” (Note: Big Blue works for Kentucky fans too)

If the person is a football fan, and your odds are good if he went to Michigan, he will tell you everything you ever wanted to hear about the new coach. And he will like you for asking! (Even though, you didn’t technically ask about the new coach. You just made a smart observation.)

2. “I noticed your recommendation from Carol Smith in your LinkedIn profile. Great person. I know her from church.”

The person will appreciate your observation and the conversation will almost certainly segue to something about Carol.

3. “I noticed you are reading World Wide Rave by David Meerman Scott. How is it?”

Again, the person will appreciate your observation and will be happy to answer the question.


CAVEAT: Don’t let new information backfire!

Let me give you an example:

“I noticed you used to work at Circuit City.Talk about a lousy company, right?”

End of interview.End of job opportunity.Insulting another person’s former company is never a good thing.Professionals put their heart and soul into their work.

So if professional information is not in LinkedIn, where do you turn?

Well, you could google the person’s name and find out.Reminder: Focus your research only on a person’s professional and public information.

If nothing turns up, ask a friend or the recruiter who made the connection.

The Truth is Out There.


Brent Peterson is the founder of Interview Angel (, a comprehensive guide and toolkit to executing near flawless job interviews. The goal of the Interview Angel Team is to bring out the very best in every job seeker. Discover customer testimonials, upcoming events, and media interviews at

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