Job Seeker Advice – Do Your Homework Please!

Boringinterview“So Mr Job Seeker, thanks for coming along to this interview, tell me what you know about our organisation and our culture?”

How many interviewers ask this question or variations of it and then find themselves yawning or doodling on their pad?

Why do so many interviewees fall down at this particular question?

Why do many totally miss such an exceptional opportunity to sell themselves, to begin closing early and to underline why they are right for this organisation almost from the word go?

Why do almost all assume that as the Interviewer I have nothing better to do with my time than listen to the 5th Interviewee in a row recite the ‘About Us’ page of the company website back to me?

This question, in whatever format it takes is a shining, blinding, blatantly obvious opportunity for you as the interviewee to sell yourself to the business. It isn’t an offer to sit there and recite a load of old gumph from the website or the back of the company literature.

What is an interviewer looking for in your answer to this question? Yes, they are looking to establish what you know about the organisation, but ideally they want to know that you have actually done some research, that you have some understanding potentially of why this organisation may be right for you culturally, how it meets your aspirations and generally. Match yourself to your statements and take this opportunity to evidence why you are potentially right, for example:

“Mr Interviewer, I am aware that in the last 12 months your organisation has made a number of acquisitions and this is one of the reasons I am here today. I thrive in fast paced environments that require agility and flexibility from its employees and this sounds like a perfect match for me because (insert example or experience of when you have thrived in a challenging fast paced environment)…”

Or what about:

“I’m so pleased you have asked me this question because I have done lots of research on the culture of the business and in particular the way it appears to promote from within and offer exceptional career development opportunities, something which really appeals to me in terms of my next opportunity. For example I noticed whilst using Linkedin that the average employee in your sales teams has been with the business for over 4 years, and over half of those appear to have been promoted at least 3 times in that period and this appeals to my ambitious nature and my desire to….”

Even better:

“I have of course done the usual and reviewed the About Us page on the website, but what I found really interesting was an interview given by your CEO to Top500 Magazine in which they outlined the amazing growth and success over the last 2 years, but more importantly the really exciting strategy and aspirations for the next 3 years, something I would relish being part of because I think my experience can contribute to that vision…”

“Let me ask you a question Mr Interviewee, what do you know about our organisation?”

I know that you are the first port of call from people who are really serious about their careers and I thought the fact that your team is full of some of the best in the industry would ensure that I can continue my own success and development accordingly …”

Researching a prospective employer prior to an interview requires more than a cursory visit to their website. If that is all you are going to do, then at the very least check out the news feed, the annual accounts and any press releases. But ideally cross reference competitors on Linkedin, know the kind of person who is a success in the business and where they come from and compare yourself to them accordingly when you get the chance in the interview. You have one chance to shine, may only have 45 mins to an hour in which to do it so don’t waste it rattling off information the interviewer already knows. Say something that say’s something about YOU!

*Cautionary Point: Don’t do the reverse and bore them senseless with too many examples. Keep it succinct, interesting and to the point.

5 thoughts on “Job Seeker Advice – Do Your Homework Please!

  1. jacob sten madsen

    And as in answer to this and as I saw a huge difference in what on paper looked good and in reality a whole different story, I as global; head of recruitment devised a document that every single candidate sent as and when they had been submitted (if agent involved) or if considered of interest for interview sent. It is called Candidate Briefing Document is really very simple with two elements. 1. it set out the format for handling and process of application who involved what it entails and the timeframe. It talks about where, when and how for 1st 2nd 3rd interview etc. 2nd element is ‘About us, our culture, values and what is good to know’ In this it is explained what has made the company great, what it is that sustains it (its people) and what they are like. It talks about that to sustain this level we need to have people that share and understand what that is about (initiative, passion, engagement) and that we wish to see that expressed in the interview.
    In short it preps the candidate for what to expect and what they need to do to impress.
    Just one example and following on from looking at corporate web page is this.
    ‘Looking at our website is what we consider a start, those that have gone beyond that and looked into what is behind, who, why and how are those that will earn our respect and interest’
    I assure after that implemented rate of candidates coming unprepared and not knowing what to expect dropped with 80%
    This is simple and can easily be rectified, all it takes to think about it and then find the solution that will rectify it.
    Happy to send if anyone interested


    1. Darren Ledger Post author

      Hi Jacob,

      I fully agree with and understand your comment. However, in many cases these are professional sales people and as such they should treat this just as they would treat a sales meeting with a prospective new client. It isn’t necessarily the evidence of research that I am asking for, what I want to know is how and why they see a fit with the organisation. It is a tip for job seekers to enable them to perform better. Not a challenge about the recruitment process.

      As for sedning them a brief about what will take place, with whom and what the company story is, well in all honesty I think that is great for graduates or entry level. But I expect professionals to demonstrate that they have the intellectual capacity to research and then prepare accordingly. Especially sales people. I wouldn’t turn up at a prospective client meeting and not know their company history, the main players, the strategic vision, challenges to that vision and so forth. Similarly if a prospective client asked me what I knew about their organisation I would give them a bespoke response which included a verification and justification for being there. I wouldn’t waffle on about their stuff which is in the public domain. I don’t expect experienced candidates to do so either.


      1. jacob sten madsen

        (Sad) fact is though Darren that approximately 35-40% of candidates (even those in sales) do make the effort of research and insight prior to interview, that leaves 60% that do not!!!.
        Sat once across a sales manager(senior bloke 8 yrs in role for major IT services co.) asked him about his target achievements to which he said he did not really have an idea what they were. That obviously ended that conversation instantly.
        My use of Candidate Briefing Document was for people in technical and IT related roles, that obviously could do with some help in understanding expectations. I think it apply much more widely than we would like to believe, if standards are falling then either disregard the 60% that haven’t got a clue, and only work on the 40%, or assist them in understanding what it is about.


  2. Sophie Mackenzie

    Darren, I agree, this is such an important question and answered well, can really make a difference. In the retail sector, the best candidates will get out into stores, speak to store managers (if appropriate) and conduct SWOT analyses of both their target company and its competitors. As you say, it’s not really about providing evidence of having done the research, it’s about making sure you have the insight required to demonstrate the two qualities which I always wanted to see in a prospective candidate: Passion and Commitment!



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