July 9, 2012
Interview tip: the more research, the better
I tend to do a lot of research before I make decisions big and small.
From reserving a hotel room to choosing new investments in my 401(k), I study traveler review websites, ask friends about their experiences and pore over prospectuses.
Decisions take longer, but I typically come away with the sense that my broader understanding led me to the right option and that I’m not going to be surprised because I carefully studied every bit of fine print.
The idea that you can’t have too much information also applies to job searches.
Applicants should study not just the individual company they’ve targeted, but the industry too. Is it profitable? Why? Which companies are the leaders? Why? What are the trends?
Unfortunately, many job seekers figure it’s enough to look at the company’s website, or to skim through the financials and read the mission, vision and values statement.
But it’s pretty clear to human resources professionals whether someone has taken that approach or really done the homework, says Colleen Dutton, director of employee relations and talent management at Rice University. When applicants talk about Rice’s vision for its second century, it shows they’ve gone pretty deep into the website.
It’s also obvious that applicants haven’t done anything in advance when they refer — incorrectly — to Rice as a big university, or don’t know it’s a private school.
“In this day and age you have no excuse that you can’t come prepared with some knowledge of the organization,’’ Dutton says.
She recommends that job seekers keep current on their industries by reading professional journals and blogs. It’s also important to keep up with current events to gauge how changes in the economy and society could affect the industry and employer.
While doing that research, applicants should try to draft some questions, Dutton says. That provides them topics to discuss knowledgeably during the interview.
It’s so common for applicants to come to interviews without doing advance research that ones who are prepared really stand out, says Angie Keller, branch manager for Randstad Engineering in Houston, a recruiting firm.
They have more confidence and show more of an interest in the job because they took the time to do the research, Keller says. And that, in turn, often translates into more excitement about the opportunity.
Applicants should look for news about the company, such as new product launches or recent acquisitions, Keller suggests. Then they can ask questions about how the new initiatives will affect the position they’re seeking.
Keller also recommends asking for a job description and studying it carefully before the interview. That way you can tie your own experiences and skills with what the company wants.
Applicants often meet with several people during the interview process. Keller suggests asking for a list in advance and looking everyone up at business networking site LinkedIn.
That not only gives applicants better knowledge about the people they’re meeting but can reveal common acquaintances or interests.
Maybe the applicant and interviewer went to the same university or grew up in the same town. People look for connections, Keller says, and it’s a good way to make an impression.
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