30 Minute Job Interview Seminar, Part 2

If you haven’t read it yet, might want check out Part 1 of this series.

The job applicant needs to not just show competence, but also needs to show fit in the company. As a hiring manager, I know it’s rare to find candidates that have all of the skills and experience I need. Given that, what I’m looking for is relevance, transferable skills, and a willingness to learn. Actually, “eagerness to learn” is probably a lot closer to what I need. I like to see a candidate that is not just willing to learn, but that actively seeks our new knowledge. A healthy thirst for new knowledge can be the difference between a good fit and a one-way trip out the door.

If you know enough about the company, you can get a feel for what they really need. You can highlight skills that are relevant to the company, even if not listed in the job description. You can fill in the skill blanks, or discuss how you can fill those blanks. Like step 1, step 2 should be obvious as well, but also like step 1, it’s far less common than you might think.

Step 2. Research – do your homework

We have this thing called the Internet. It’s really handy and it lets you go to company websites – like the website of the company you are trying to get a job with.

It astounds me when a job candidate hasn’t spent time with my website – and a brief cursory glance is not enough. Read it start to finish, top to bottom. Get a feel for the personality of the company and the people. Read their terms and conditions. Try and determine what’s important to them; are they customer focused or internally focused. If they’re an e-commerce company, go through the catalog and ordering process. You can stop short of actually placing an order, but at least do everything but.

Then, don’t stop at the company’s website. Google them. Read about what they do. Read about their customers and competitors. Learn everything about the company that you can. Become an expert in the company. Learn their market. It’s not that hard. Find blogs and message boards that talk about them or cover the same market. What does social media say about them? What magazines do their customer read? Go to those magazine websites (or even find an actual print magazine). Find out where the company advertises and what the advertisements look like. Search for customer complaints and the company’s responses.

This applies to local jobs too. If you’re applying to bag groceries at a neighborhood supermarket, spend some time in the store. Buy something. Look at the organization of the shelves and note the level of customer service and clutter around. Do the same for other stores in the area. Look at the people that shop and work in the store. Are they young, old, happy, grumpy? Go back multiple times at different times. Try to get to know the busy hours and slack hours.

Here’s the thing about this. Obviously, you need to know the subject matter required by the job. But there are a lot of people that know that. Skills and expertise get disguised as acronyms and buzzwords and your knowledge of them is pretty much table-stakes. You have to have that knowledge, but it’s not what gets you hired.

You get hired or not primarily based on what you bring along with those base requirements. And, that’s where doing your research comes in to play. If you know the company, the customers, the competition, the word on the street (AKA social media), the environment that your (hopefully) future co-workers live in, you will be head and shoulders above those who just have the skills.

Stay tuned (again) for the 30 Minute Job Interviewing Seminar, Part 3.