Q: In my last job interview, I really struggled when they asked me what I knew about the company. The truth is that I have been going through a never-ending round of interviews since leaving college and I almost didn’t even know the name of the company, let alone some details about what they do. I suspect there are many others in the same position as me. Was it unfair of them to ask this question? How much can you be expected to know about a company before you join it? (TG, email).
A: Unfair of them? They were perfectly within their rights. This is a standard question that most companies will ask. It helps them to ascertain the level of research you have done before the interview. And they might well conclude that the extent of your interview research will mirror what you will bring to the job itself, particularly if said research was lacking.
There is no excuse for not knowing quite a lot about the company. So much information is now publicly available at the tip of our fingers. One time, you had to go to a library to find out something about a company or make a lot of phone calls: these days, a company’s website is highly informative, not to mention other online sources.
In fact, I would argue you should go further than that. You should talk to current or former employees. I cannot emphasise enough how much failing to know about the company will damage your chances in interview.
Not knowing much about the company is also deeply disrespectful. The people sitting in front of you have put a lot of time into building up the company and then you just rock up and expect them to give you a job without even going to the trouble of ascertaining what they do, how they do it and for whom (i.e., their customers) they are doing it.
The more you know, the more confident you will be going to interview. You will be able to ask better questions and you are likely to spot openings to score points. If you’re operating in the dark, you are seriously damaging your chances. It’s a case of game over, ball burst, before you even get into your stride.
Even though you are busy with you run of interviews now, you simply must find time before each interview to get a handle on the company. It’s a non-negotiable element of your preparation.
Another benefit of good research is that you may be able to make some interesting suggestions about how the company could enhance what it does. Interview panels often ask about the ideas you have for their company. While they don’t expect to get the next million-dollar idea through this process, they will take note of those who have learned enough to be able to make concrete suggestions.
Think about the converse. We are a training company. We once interviewed a person who thought we were a recruitment company. There was simply no way back. I couldn’t even ask them about their ideas for the company. It would have been an embarrassment all round if they started listing ideas appropriate to a recruitment company. The interview fizzled out.
Research has never been easier. Even a couple of hours will go a long way.
Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.
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