Job interviews: How to use focused research wisely
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By Liam Horan, Career Coach & Managing Director, Sli Nua Careers
A regularly neglected or misunderstood area of preparing for job interviews is that of researching the organisation.
When it’s neglected, the candidate just reads a few lines on the company website and dresses that up as research. It’s shallow, and everybody else is doing the same.
Do you want to be an interview candidate who is just doing what everybody else is doing?
When it’s misunderstood, it involves extensive reading and some meetings, but without any plan for how all of this will be put to good effect in the interview. Frequently, in this scenario, people devote long hours to the task but, because they don’t really know what to do with what they are finding out, they become overwhelmed with information of no ultimate value to them.
Here are some key points to think about when researching the company?
- Be sure to know the overall story of the company – where they’ve come from, how their market has changed, how they’ve diversified?
- Know what the company is specifically focusing on these days – new products, different approaches, taking on or laying off, new plants?
- Familiarise the competition – who’s stealing their clothes, who’s coming up on the outside, who’s been there forever, how they’re operating in the market?
- Know what the job entails – what you’re expected to do, what you should achieve, seasonal peaks and troughs?
- If applicable, know how the last person fared out in the role – what they did well, what they struggled with, where they’ve gone?
If you can thread all of that together, you have good, relevant information at your disposal. The research has thus not been neglected: so, how might it be deployed?
You should introduce this information right throughout the interview. Don’t wait for the ‘what do you know about us?’ question just before they let you out the gap. It’s too late then: you’ve missed open goals along the way.
In almost every answer, bring in something relevant about the company or exact role you’re seeking. When talking about characteristics that have benefitted in the past, relate them to how they will stand to you in the new role. Tell them how they will transfer to the job you’re chasing.
This onus rests squarely with you. They may not ask – but you score more points if you tell them anyway. Remember, their chief area of interest is what exact elements of your skills, achievements, characteristics and experience will be of value to them. That’s the sweet spot. Go there.
In this way, the interview can turn into a knowledgeable conversation – and that’s a great point to reach in an interview.
If you only talk about your past, and fail to relate it to the future, just one hand is clapping. Get both clapping and you will see their heads nodding.
Don’t rely on them picking it up on the ether – tell them specifically. Try it in practice. It’s easier than you think. This is how you make your research a real asset. Next week, I will talk about how you might actually carry out that research – and, again, it is easier than many candidates think.
You can read more blog from Liam HERE
Liam Horan is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers. We have offices nationwide, plus a full online service. Our services include CV preparation, interview training, mock interviews, personal statements, career planning / direction, LinkedIn profiles and application forms.