Company knowledge is your secret weapon in interview

This week we return to a topic we have glanced off before without ever dealing with it in great detail: to wit, the whole area of researching the organisation before you present for interview.

At a recent employment conference, a business owner described it as “the biggest failing I come across in candidates.”

She added: “I only fully realised how poorly candidates research the company when a truly great candidate came through the door for interview. He knew everything about us.

“Not alone could he talk knowledgeably about our future direction, but he had also tracked backwards, so to speak – he articulated our various milestones in terms of when we opened new wings of our business, how one innovation led to another, and the like.”

She was gobsmacked – in a good way, I hasten to add. “Halfway through the interview, I wanted to give him the job there and then – he stood out like a beacon,” she added. She controlled her impulse to bring the interview to a halt there and then, but, yes, she did give him the job subsequently, and, thankfully, he has backed up his excellent interview with quality work.

Contrast that with those candidates who know the bare minimum, or even less. The interview is immediately stunted: without an in-depth knowledge of the company, you cannot transform the interview into an informed discussion, which is what it should ideally be.

So prepare yourself to be able to make the following statements – and also ensure you back them up if asked for further clarification:

“I have been watching the company grow and I know this is where I want to work”; “I have noted how you have added new product lines in recent times and can see how you have arrived at this  point from your earlier successes”; “I am very impressed with the way you go about marketing your services.”

Candidates sometimes feel the need to observe a distance or formality, as if it is professional to so do. I would argue that it is a counter-productive instinct, and feedback I get from employers supports that argument.

Make it more ‘real’, not less so, by knowing the company inside out.

Where might you get that information? You will get it from the company website; from people already working there; from people working in similar organisations; from general googling; from newspaper articles; and from looking at the company’s products or services wherever you can find them.

Use the information you pick up in two ways – to answer the direct, often-asked ‘what do you know about us’ question, and, perhaps more usefully, to pepper your answers with information about the company, almost as if it is second nature to you. Don’t wait for the ‘what do you know about us’ question to convince them you know a lot about them.

It is particularly valuable to drop in knowledge that you couldn’t have just picked up from the company website. Equally, when presenting information, use phrases such as “when researching your company” rather than downbeat language like “I saw something about that on the internet.”

This kind of preparation will almost certainly give you a greater edge. And, human nature being what it is, virtually everybody likes to be flattered, particularly if the flattery has a ring of truth to it, or derives from an astute observation.

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