The quality of your research can win or lose you an interview. It can significantly increase your chances because your interviewer will consider your research as a reflection of your enthusiasm, interest and commitment to the role. It shows you are up for the challenge, thorough, genuine and competent, and almost all employers like those traits.
Al Pacino has probably performed in more gangster movies than most of us have had hot dinners, but he never failed to do his research. He played an ageing hitman in the film Donnie Brasco and to prepare for his role, watched and spoke to New York wise guys. In some respects, job interviews are like showbiz so learning your lines and rehearsing your behaviour is imperative if you want to deliver a showstopper of a performance.
Interviews have not changed much in the past few decades and most employers want to work with people they like and trust. One of the most tried and tested methods of winning your interviewer over is by being prepared. A stunning opening dialogue of reciting their company history and ethos or a moving insight of their website can significantly move hearts and minds in your favour. An employer may continue to see other candidates to see out the process but, you will stay in their mind for all the right reasons.
Without question, a successful interview is about generating likeability. Despite the best efforts of scientific or clever interviewing techniques, most hiring decisions are based on your personality and character. Skills and experience will fly out of the window once you’ve demonstrated to your interviewer that you’ve put in a serious amount of legwork prior to your interview. We’ve found, it isn’t the most talented that gets the job, it’s the one who makes the best impression by virtue of their research and subtly accentuating their most relevant skills. Great interviews don’t happen by chance – it’s achieved by standing back from the noise and fluff and focusing purely on what information and behaviour gets you the result you want. No matter how talented someone is, they won’t get hired if they’ve not put in the leg work.
The price for ignoring research is just way too high – it’s not just about peeking at their website or, seeking out their market position and prestige, it’s about going deeper and telling them things that aren’t obvious. It’s also about reflecting on the most important things such as identifying your core competencies and skills, previous successes and aligning them to the job at hand. It’s about looking at ways you can help them increase revenues or save costs and time or break new markets – all these things are sweet music to your potential new employer.
Interview questions are pretty much the same from one employer to the next. Some can be quite different and more imaginative, but the narrative is the same – will this person fit and will they add value. Watch out for the one humdinger which is ‘why do you want to work here?’. Companies now realise that no one stays forever so rather than confess your undying love for them, talk about your most innate skills that will add value to the job or your superior knowledge of a particular discipline that can make a quick and significant impact.
Fit is huge and relates to how you will blend in with the people and ethos. It’s that elusive match between your character and that specific combination of unspoken and informal behaviours and idiosyncrasies of each company. To get a grip on culture, this will require a deeper look at people on LinkedIn and maybe carrying a bit of indiscrete research on what a firm is like behind the scenes. Sometimes, it may lead you to look elsewhere which is no bad thing. This is probably the hardest thing to gauge in an interview and don’t lose sleep if you don’t get a job based on fit. It may mean, they think you can do the job but, you won’t gel with certain people or you won’t do it in the way they want. There’s no point trying to be a square peg in a round hole.
Interviews will tend to focus on your jobs, past and present, your transferable skills, reasons for your interest and for seeking pastures new, salary history or expectations and may quiz you on any inconsistencies in your career as well as that other killer question – ‘tell me about yourself‘ so it’s worth rehearsing your answers to these common questions.
In terms of doing your research – there are no excuses so do not pull up short. It can literally be a tiebreaker in a close-run race with another candidate. Too many people have become quite nonchalant in this area and your prime purpose in doing research is to demonstrate how serious you’re taking the process. A lack of it may not harm you in the initial screening but, it will bite you on the backside when it comes to delivering your lines.