Jobs are hard to come by these days. So when my friend “Carly” was offered an interview a few weeks ago, I was really pulling for her. She’s smart and seemed perfect for the position – but ended up not getting the job. I believe it was mainly due to a common interviewing mistake she made. But you can boost your chances of getting any position just by learning from Carly’s failure.

When Carly called me after the interview, she sounded bummed. “I didn’t get it,” she told me.

When I asked what went wrong, she said, “When the hiring manager asked me to go into details about what I liked about the company, I couldn’t answer him. I hadn’t really looked into it that much.”

The fact is, the more you know about the job you’re applying for, the better. A Robert Half International poll of executives, reported in MSN Careers, found that most job applicants “display at least some knowledge of the company or industry.”

Doing background research before your interview will not only show the folks who are doing the hiring that you’re interested in the job… it will also help you determine, specifically, how you can contribute to the company’s success. (And, trust me, knowing that will come in very handy during the interview.)

If you can’t find any info about the business online, do what Carly should have done: Call up the company and set up an “informational interview” with the head of the department you want to join. You can ask questions – and show interest – without the pressure of a traditional job interview. And then, when you’re ready to apply, you’ll be a much stronger candidate.

[Ed. Note: There’s no reason for you to make the same job-search mistake Carly made. Pick up a copy of Automatic Wealth for Grads… and Anyone Else Just Starting Out. It’s full of advice on how to pick the right job and how to ace the interview. Plus, it has chapters devoted to building your wealth outside of work.]