When you don’t research the employer before the interview, your superficial research downgrades your answers to every question, disappoints prospective employers and shortchanges you. Take the time, leave your comfort zone, and learn everything you can.
As John headed back to his car after a grueling interview, he was elated. Always optimistic, he usually thought it had gone very well. The panel of interviewers seemed to like his responses to their questions, and he had a good feeling about his chances.
Finally, it was coming together for John. He was proud of the fact that he had taught himself the ins and outs of the plant manager role with a small town manufacturer before it was sold a year ago. Now he felt ready for a big break, bringing his skills and knowledge to a national firm. This position brought a higher salary, opportunities for promotion and improved benefits, just in time for the baby coming in a couple of months.
Back inside, Sherman was puzzled. Something was lacking in John’s answers. John undoubtedly had solved some challenging problems with a shoestring budget. But it was harder to visualize him working in the department. His stories placed him in an environment entirely unlike this one. No more walking into the president’s office and demanding immediate approval for new equipment. If he was hired, could John adjust?
John is oblivious. The very idea that his limited knowledge of even basic differences between his former employer and this new one could undermine his credibility would never occur to him.
For that reason, John didn’t sell himself as effectively as he might have.
Good research distinguishes you from less prepared candidates
The first time I was asked what I had done to prepare for an interview, I was startled by the question. During my academic career, that would never be asked. The truth was, I had done very little to learn about the organization. It simply never occurred to me that I was expected to research the employer before the interview! Frankly, that sounded like a lot of unnecessary work.
The power of thorough, in-depth research to distinguish you from the other applicants, and to overcome biases cannot be overstated. There would have been concerns about John’s suitability just from looking at his resume, but careful preparation of responses that were designed to suit the actual workplace of the prospective employer would have reassured the interview panel.
Possibly even if John did know that he needed to adapt his answers for this specific company, he might have dismissed the idea of spending that much time in preparation for one interview. So the payoff needs to be high.
Every response in the interview needs to be tailored to this position, this company, this time. And you can’t tailor anything without getting as much detailed information as possible.
For example, suppose you are asked to describe your ideal work environment. And all you can think about is never wanting to work in a cubicle again. You assume that because of the level of this position in the organization, you would get your own office. But you are wrong. If you say what is on your mind, will they eliminate you from consideration? It certainly won’t help, will it?
Benefits of pre-interview research:
1. Every sentence in your response to every interview question changes. Instead of delivering vague responses, you are now specific, sounding less like an outsider.
2. Your concrete language now enables the interviewer to visualize you in the position. Abstract language suggests you might not be able to execute the tasks.
3. By demonstrating more effort and ingenuity in discovering specific, relevant information, you improve the interviewer’s appraisal of how you approach important assignments.
4. You communicate that this job is important to you.
5. Close the gap with internal applicants, who clearly have an information advantage.
So why are you feeling reluctant to get out there and learn about this company? There are several sources of resistance and none of them help your cause.
Why Didn’t You Research the Employer before the Interview?
1. Introversion: If you find the idea of information interviewing intimidating, you are not alone. It’s just way out of your comfort zone. There are great resources available today that can help you to expand your comfort zone. More importantly, there are fewer jobs today don’t require tasks that are challenging to introverts. Demonstrate early in the interview that your temperament doesn’t limit your performance of everything this position requires.
2. Unaware: Many unemployed individuals haven’t been on the job market in years and simply don’t know what is expected or what other applicants.
3. Laziness: Is that your normal approach to difficult task requirements?
4. Cockiness: Let’s face it. You think you have in the bag. They’d be crazy not to hire you. But in today’s competitive employment marketplace other candidates will be prepared and you won’t.
How will employers interpret your lack of preparation?
Often I have misinterpreted a student’s weak effort on an assignment as lack of commitment to the course when in fact they were holding down a full-time job to support themselves financially. Interviewers can’t be sure why you didn’t prepare so they have to guess.
Cockiness and laziness are inexcusable but what about introversion or shyness? Clearly it depends on the nature of the position, but there are fewer positions than ever in today’s workplace that don’t require you to perform tasks and engage in activities that are shy or introverted people find difficult. Simply, if you didn’t take the initiative to appropriately research the employer before the interview, with your own interests at stake, why should the employer give you the benefit of the doubt?
This is part of the series of posts on 50 Job Interview Questions. Subscribe to this blog and you won’t miss one!
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