Over my 30 years in the workplace, I have met and interviewed hundreds of candidates or people simply wanting advice about the industry. I’ve learnt a lot listening to them and here are a few simple things a candidate has to do to impress.
If you type into Google things like: The best questions to ask in an interview; 10 best questions to ask in an interview; interview questions to ask a future employee, etc. you may find some gems but from experience, impressing a future employee comes down to three things: a passion for the sector, knowledge of the company, and going the extra mile.
Here’s what I mean:
Be curious about the sector in which you work. Read about it; subscribe to the online industry ezines; follow some of the sector experts on LinkedIn and Twitter; stay abreast of trends; speak to others in the industry – friends, colleagues, family contacts, lecturers, professors, etc; attend industry events.
You need to show you are hungry to expand your horizons and broaden your knowledge of your industry.
Not only will this impress the interviewer, it will pay back in spades later in your career.
Knowledge of the company interviewing you
If there’s one thing which is seriously underwhelming and a massive red flag for any interviewer, it’s when the candidate hasn’t done their homework on the company. In fact, don’t bother going to the interview if you haven’t done your homework.
What does homework mean? The obvious is reading the website, and I don’t mean a cursory glance at the ‘About Us’ section or a quick look at the biographies of the people interviewing you.
Everyone as at a minimum should be doing that, but if you want to stand out, you need to be doing the following:
- A deep dive into all the following sections of their website if they have them: insights, news, publications, thought leadership, research, etc.
- If they are listed on the ASX, or have an offshore listed holding company, make sure you read the latest annual report, results and investor presentation.
- Explore their owned social media channels – Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, etc. Get an understanding of when and why they use these channels and the tone of voice.
- Read up on their values, purpose, mission and vision. Then when reviewing the projects in which they are involved, do so through the lens of their values and whether they align. If not, be sure to ask about it in the interview.
- Search for the company or key people mentions in mainstream media as well as the trade publications covering their sector. Do they have a presence? Have they faced any major issues or crisis? How did they handle these? And then, if something strikes you as interesting or odd during this review be sure to ask about it in the interview.
- Review what their competitors are doing. If you see a competitor doing something different or interesting, ask something like: “I noticed one of your biggest competitors is changing its customer interface system, does that worry you? Do you think it will be worth the investment?”
- Read as much research you can find on the future of the sector into which you are going. Most of the management consultancies and large accounting firms reports are available online covering this sort of thing. But don’t ask questions like: “Where do you see the future of the company in five years?” It’s a bland, anyone-can-ask-that type question, instead, if you’ve done your homework, rather frame it along the following lines: “I was reading the XYZ report on the future of your industry and was curious to understand whether you agree with one of their key findings that blockchain is going to change your customer transactions in three years?”
Going the extra mile
While much of the section above will indicate to the interviewer you have gone the extra mile, there are a few things you can do over and above these which will really impress.
- Speak to someone in the company prior to your interview. If you don’t know anyone ask your mates, your parents and their friends whether they know anyone who works there or who used to work there. If so you’re in luck — set up a call or take them for a coffee to find out more. But make sure you’ve done your homework, so you can ask the right questions. Also, ask them what sort of questions they would ask knowing what they know about the company.
- Do your homework on the interviewer. Really understand their role, what they’ve done previously and who they know, who you might know as well. Having mutual contacts can often be a good ice breaker but a word of caution, be sensitive to how you approach this as the mutual contact and the interviewer may not necessarily be on good terms.
While these things do take a bit of extra time, if you want to stand out from the other candidates this is the way to do it.