We're trying to hire an internal web developer at CoderSchool because we have a lot of fun stuff to build. So I've been interviewing candidates and along the way I've been reminded of one simple thing that many candidates overlook:

Spend 5-10 minutes researching the company you're interviewing with. If you can, try to use their product. Have a suggestion for how it could be improved.

This is one of the easiest, most high-value way you can improve your chances of interview success. First, it's good for you to understand what you're getting into. Second, it signals to the interviewer that you care about something she cares about, which gives you great common ground to start a discussion. Finding common interests is the key to any relationship.

It honestly boggles my mind how many people skip this step. How can someone agree to a 2 hour interview, but not spend 5 minutes researching the company beforehand? This is not a TV Reality show, this is your life we're talking about.

Why would you make yourself do this

A recent sad example who will go unnamed, was a CoderSchool graduate who came to interview for the position. He performed adequately on the technical screening, but I was really taken aback by his responses when I asked him a few simple questions about his CoderSchool experience.

He couldn't remember the name of his teacher, and he couldn't remember what he worked on for his final project. He said he had forgotten to review.

This is incredibly frustrating for me to share, on many levels. First, it made me feel the candidate didn't care for his experience at CoderSchool. I'm proud that most students talk about CoderSchool being a life-changing experience (as in this video), but beyond that, it honestly confused me: why was he interested in working for us? We're very mission-driven (most startups are); how could I count on him to be part of that culture?

This is far from an isolated incident; I've seen it throughout my career. When I worked for a social gaming company, it was always a good sign when prospective candidates had actually played the game they were interviewing to spend their waking hours working on. Back then I was also shocked when people showed up without having tried our game. It was a free online game, people.

So please, please: spend five minutes skimming the website of any company you're interviewing for. It'll improve your rapport with the interviewer, but most importantly, it'll help you make better decisions. Don't force yourself to be Married on First Sight.

(As a quick story, if you're interested in working for one of our hiring partners, before you interview, you should at least skim the founder's book!)