Take advantage of LinkedIn to prepare for interviews and meetings

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Last year, Microsoft and LinkedIn announced that you would be able to see LinkedIn details about people you're going to meet right in the Outlook calendar, to help you prepare for the conversation. Knowing someone's job title and where they've worked in the past should give you a much clearer idea how to work productively with them -- or what they might ask you about if you're going for an interview.

When you get to that awkward point when the interviewer asks what questions you have, knowing what their job is should help you ask a question they can answer usefully.

You can even see if your networks have anyone in common, who you could ask for advice about how to deal with them.

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Outlook is a great place to put information about people, because it's where you go to communicate. Connecting your email address book and your LinkedIn network should save a lot of time: instead of having to go to LinkedIn, find the person you want to email, clicking on their contact info and copying their email address, you can just type their name and use their profile image and job title to make sure that yes, this is the right Jane Smith. Over the years, Outlook has had several different social connectors and add-ins to bring in your social network: this integration is just the latest way of doing it, and the integration is going deeper.

It's also going to be available in the Share dialog in Office apps like Word and PowerPoint. Again, it seems obvious that you'd want to be able to invite the people you're connected to in your business social network to collaborate on documents without all that searching, clicking and copying.

That's still the plan, but the pieces of it are only slowly becoming available.

Originally the information from LinkedIn was going to appear in the meeting invitation directly, but now it's in the People Card, because that shows up all over Office and not just in the calendar. Hover over a name in an email or a comment in a Word document and the People Card gives you a quick summary of their details, with icons to do things like send them a message or schedule a meeting. "It was important for us to not limit these valuable people insights to calendar only and ensure they are available to all workflows for collaboration and communication," Cem Aykan, principal PM manager for the feature explained.

Peek at the people card

Connect your LinkedIn account and the People Card will show job titles and profile images from LinkedIn. If it's someone in your LinkedIn network, you can see who you both know, and you can email people even if you don't have their email address saved in Outlook. Plus you can see all the email conversations you've had and any files they've sent you.

Click on the LinkedIn icon at the top of the card, the LinkedIn heading in the middle or the 'Show more' link at the bottom to get a bigger window where you can see more emails, filter the files and see the highlights of their LinkedIn profile. If they have a new position or a work anniversary (or a birthday), that will show up, and you can click through to see their full profile -- helpful to see if they've posted anything that might be relevant in your meeting.

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LinkedIn information is currently only available via Outlook on the web.

Image: Mary Branscombe/TechRepublic

If you use the Office 365 MyAnalytics feature, this will also show up on the People Card. MyAnalytics (formerly known as Delve) tracks your work habits in email, meetings and Office documents, spots who you frequently collaborate with and makes suggestions like blocking time in your calendar to get work done. "We'll continue investing in new people inferences and highlights that help people stay on top of reminders, tasks and help them nurture and grow their network," Aykan said.

So far though, you only get to see the information from LinkedIn if you're using Outlook on the web. You need to be using a commercial version of Office 365 and your tenant also needs to be set to receive Targeted Release versions of Office (that's under 'Organization profile' in the Office 365 admin settings, and if you have the new admin console you'll need to show all settings to find that). Individual users also need to connect their LinkedIn account to their Office account, and ironically the easiest way to do that is in the desktop Outlook client. Choose 'File, Options, General', scroll to the very bottom and check the box for 'Enable LinkedIn features in my Office applications'; you can also link accounts here.

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Once that's done, you should see LinkedIn details on the People Card. You should also be able to type the name of someone in your LinkedIn network in Outlook online to send them a mail, or in the Share dialog in Word, Excel and PowerPoint Online, or when sharing from OneDrive for Business and SharePoint sites -- instead of having to know their email address (or take the time to copy it from LinkedIn). That's based on what Microsoft calls the Universal Directory, but it's still experimental so even if your tenant has targeted release turned on, you probably won't have access to it (and if you do see it available, the interface is likely to change before it's broadly available).

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Get advice and practice tough interview questions with LinkedIn's tools.

Image: Mary Branscombe/TechRepublic

Practice beforehand

If the meeting you're preparing for is an interview, LinkedIn has its own tools to help with that, although you'll need to have a premium account to use them. A list of common interview questions shows up at the side of the Job Tracker dashboard and on the Jobs tap in the LinkedIn mobile app. Click through to see 26 of the general interview questions that are always hard to answer (why do you want to work here, where do you see yourself in five years, what are your weaknesses and so on). As well as explanations of what the questions are really about and sample answers, you can also practice the questions by recording a video or writing a reply -- and share those with contacts on LinkedIn if you want feedback.

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