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?

Career Hack: Freedom through Resigning

Let’s just admit it, nothing makes us feel quite as free (or as good in some cases) as submitting a letter of resignation and leaving on your own terms. Notice I did not say quitting a job. There is a difference between resigning and quitting.

Here are a couple of quick tips for leaving the right way.

Know the difference between resigning and quitting
While it may be tempting to strike a match and toss it over your shoulder, don’t do it. Leaving a position or a company does not give you license to damage your reputation or jeopardize benefits that you may you be able to keep. Read your employee handbook (remember the one you shoved in a drawer on your first day) and understand your employer’s expectations BEFORE you submit that letter of resignation.

Have an executable exit strategy
Don’t make your manager beg you for an exit plan. Be proactive and put one together. What work is in progress and high priority and how do you plan to transition that work and those relationships to others? Your colleagues will thank you!

Don’t leave your network behind
Remember what I said about your reputation? When you a leave, your reputation goes with you. Leverage that reputation to maintain meaningful connections with colleagues that you worked with. Send out a farewell email and include your personal email address and LinkedIn URL.

Don’t forget your personal files
It is not shocking that we work on personal things during the course of our workday. Make sure you remove any personal correspondence or files that you have saved before your last day. More importantly, take the time to collect commendations and other items that should be a part of your professional portfolio and save those work samples to a personal drive.

Career Hack: Remove Useless Lists of Job Skills from your Resume

I know it feels super gangsta being the only one in the office who has mastered using the fax, printer, copy machine combo (if you don’t get the nod to Office Space, do better and watch that movie on whatever streaming service has it immediately).

Before you embark on your search for the movie, ask yourself two questions.

  1. Have you only included relevant, 21st-century skills on your resume?
  2. Does your resume convey who you are as a professional and all that you have to offer?

You are wasting space on your resume if you are listing your ability to use  Microsoft Office or be a team player. These are skills that are expected of any professional in the workforce today.

Use the valuable space on your resume to demonstrate your ability to be a leader or provide excellent customer service (inside and outside of your organization) using professional accomplishments that required those skills.

Check your resume for these out of date job skills that may be clogging your resume and adding no value.  Contact me for help to refresh an old resume.

10 worst pieces of career advice

Career advice is always plentiful. We get it from friends, colleagues, family members, and even strangers but how much of it is actually helpful? Some tips are just plain wrong while much of the guidance is not applicable to every situation.  Relevance can vary for a variety of reasons including industry, company, and life circumstances.

What is the worst career advice you have ever received? Just in case you don’t recognize bad career suggestions, check out CareerMetis.com 10 Worst Pieces of Career Advice You Should Never Follow.

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.