Career Hack: How to Use Research During a Job Interview

If you are preparing for an interview, be prepared to hear “Make sure you research the company”. I make the recommendation ad nauseam to clients and friends.

On a few occasions, however, my advice has been met with a bewildered look and a few obvious questions. Why should I research the company? What am I looking for? What information is most important for me to know going into an interview? How can I use the research during the interview?

Understanding what a company does is key to successful interviewing. It is such an obvious reason to research a company that I won’t say much more about it.

Spending some time on a company’s website can help you dig deeper and understand what an organization stands for. Are corporate values posted on the website? What is its mission and vision for the future of the organization? Do they have a public diversity statement?

How is this helpful to you when preparing for an interview?

Understanding how the role you are applying for fits into the direction of the company is essential. You can tailor some of your responses to highlight experience that speaks to that direction and the work that will be necessary to accomplish those goals.

This is also time for you to prepare for the inevitable interview question, “Do you have any questions for us?”

Asking about how your role contributes to the strategic goals referenced on the website demonstrates that you are interested in a long-term engagement with the company.

Most importantly, researching the company at this level also serves an opportunity for you to vet the organization. Do the corporate values align with your purpose and the impact you want to make in this world? If you don’t have a clearly defined purpose, I encourage you to spend some time teasing that out.

What else should I look for?

Company reviews

In addition to scouring the company’s website, Google the company and read employee reviews. This is once again, me, encouraging you to recognize your power in this process. Interviews are an opportunity to decide if this is the right place to spend at least eight hours a day.

Reading employee reviews can provide some insight into the culture of an organization? Red flags are subjective because we all thrive in different environments but hearing from employees digitally could prompt you to ask to meet with a few employees before you accept an offer. Yes, you can do that!

Company reviews can be easily found on a host of sites including Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

Meet your interviewers

Why walk into an interview blind? When the meeting is scheduled, ask who you will be interviewing with and get to know them by checking out their profiles on LinkedIn.

It is not creepy, it is practical!

Knowing how long they have been with the company and what work they did prior to becoming decider of your fate will help you better communicate during the interview.

It also never hurts to know what the people look like before you walk into the room. I find it comforting and it helps me relax a bit.

Prepare for questions

When people say, “Everything is on the internet”, they mean it. Many companies have a preferred interview style (behavioral vs performance; panel vs individual). Sometimes this information is on the company’s website along with tips for preparing for an interview.

No really, make sure you review the human resources page for any tips and prep materials the company provides. 

Googling the company or specific interviewer can also show results about interview styles and go to questions that they like to ask. I definitely have a few “favorite” interview questions that I ask candidates.

Has researching a company prior to an interview helped you land a job?

Flash Friday: Describing how you handle feedback

You can run interview questions all day long with experienced professionals but understanding what interviewers are actually trying to gauge with their questions is truly preparing yourself.

How do you prepare to respond to this question: How do you handle critique?

This question is designed for you to respond with a story. Don’t just tell them but demonstrate that you understand:

  1. How to receive feedback from supervisors and peers
  2. How to use feedback as a means to grow professionally

The best way to prepare for this question is to have several narratives in your head. You do not want to sound rehearsed but this is a fairly common question and should not catch you off guard.

 

Career Hack: Preparing for those unusual interview questions

Arriving for a job interview causes a number of mixed emotions. On one hand, you are one of the chosen few asked to come in and sell yourself in person. On the other hand, you are about to participate in a rapid-fire inquisition scheduled to last approximately 50 minutes.

You have done your due diligence and assembled stories about your accomplishments with each narrative exemplifying a combination of hard and soft skills. You are ready.

What you are not ready for is that single question that seems to have nothing to do with your actual qualifications for the job.

Today, many hiring managers are peppering interviews with questions that can catch you off guard. While they are not meant to be “gotchas” they can be anything but straightforward.

Each Wednesday, I will post one such question with a few suggestions on how to respond.

Question: What book(s) are you currently reading?

Before you blurt out, “Who has time to read” or “What does this have to do with the position”, understand that this question is actually designed to get to know you better. There are few wrong answers but a few things you should remember when preparing to respond.

1. Be honest. Don’t offer a book that you have never actually read. If you have not read a book in a while, read one immediately. Reading is important and not just to be able to respond to this interview question.

2. In addition to the title of the book, explain why you are reading the book. Why does it interest you? Are you reading a particular book to develop a skill or expand your mind?

3. Make sure you respond with a book title appropriate for a professional environment as well as the role you are applying for. For example, an absolute wrong response would be admitting that you are reading “Coding for Dummies” if you are applying for a position in which being able to code is essential.