If you’re applying for jobs or will in the future, go read this Lifehacker article, The Interview Question That’s Always Asked (and How to Nail It) by Jefferson McDowell, now.
You should memorize and practice these responses.
In addition, before the interview, review what’s important to you. What do you need to be fulfilled in a position? Autonomy? A team atmosphere? A place to grow with potential for internal advancement? Scheduled feedback? The opportunity to continue learning? Mentors? There are no right or wrong answers. The easiest way to figure out your priorities are to think about why you are leaving your current position. Or if you’re a new graduate, what you loved or hated about your pre-professional jobs.
Now look at those priorities and match them up with the job description and what you know from your research about the company.
Is there a way to convey your priorities while also, as the article points out, meeting the needs of the organization? The more prepared you are for your interview, the more you will appear as a strong candidate and increase your chances of being hired.
Nearly all interviewees know they should research the company before they apply and again before the interview. But simply telling someone to research the company and individual, isn’t giving much direction. Here’s a list of what you should know about the company and your interviewer before the interview starts. You want to be able to explain why you are a good match for the company in terms of work and culture. You’ll gain insight into the work by researching the company and the culture by researching the person.
What’s the company’s Mission Statement?
How is the company organized? (hint: Is there a CEO or president? Are there department managers? Who will you be reporting to?)
What are the company’s goals? (hint: this might be difficult to find if it is a private company, but if you can find this and reiterate how you can help the company achieve these goals, you’re more likely to land the job.)
What are the recent news stories about the company? (hint: try trade publications and local niche publications.)
What’s the company’s financial situation? (hint: you might not want to discuss this in the interview. Use your best judgment.)
As for what information you need about the interviewer, some good knowledge to have is:
Who will be interviewing you?
What’s his background? (hint: LinkedIn is a good place to find this information if it is not public on the company site.)
How long has she worked for the company?
Is he involved in other organizations?
The more information you have on hand (don’t be afraid to print things out!), the more comfortable you’ll be at the interview and all your research will reiterate that you are taking the interview seriously.