Candidates and Companies: Online Prep for Job Interviews and Being an Employer of Choice
Your goal in a job interview is to be convincing when you say, “I want to work here.” To effectively back up this statement, you should know more than just the basic company information before heading into an interview.
Hiring managers expect insightful questions from their candidates. Yet while showing excitement and curiosity is important – those who have the most success during job interviews have done their due diligence and conducted strategic research in every stage of their job search.
Interviewing is tied to the four C’s:
The ability to discuss a company’s uniqueness and demonstrate your knowledge is key in having the hiring manager determine if you are a good fit, not only for the position but also for the company, projects, and teams already in place.
Conducting quality research beforehand will provide a comprehensive understanding of the role, industry, competition, job market trends, and the company vision to help you better position yourself as the solution to their challenges. This research will help you develop a winning application and interview strategy to prove you have the character, competence, chemistry, and culture fit needed to succeed.
ONLINE INDUSTRY AND JOB RESEARCH STRATEGIES
Take time to conduct general and in-depth research into the industry and profession. Explore current job listings and the qualifications they are requiring for your target role and other similar positions that are currently open. You might find trending terms or comparable characteristics for their candidates in other job descriptions.
By researching the company, you can also find out about upcoming conferences, events, or speaking engagements the company is hosting or attending.
It is now easier than ever to learn about an employer before the job interview by being proactive and gathering as much information as you can. You can use online platforms and tap into your existing network of contacts to see if they have any inside insight into the organization.
- LinkedIn is the largest global professional networking site with over 200 million users in 200 countries. It is significantly ahead of its competitors and is your best bet in focusing your company research efforts.
- Look at the main page of the organization and see who works there, if and how they are conducting online recruiting, and what their social posts are focused on.
- Review the backgrounds of your interviewers and the employees who work there, particularly in the team you’d be working in. See what other companies they have worked for, their tenure with your target company, different titles earned, and if they have any popular blogs or publications focused on the company, your specialty area, and industry. You can also check out their interests and activities, which can provide common ground for you in building rapport during the interview.
- Who are the company evangelists and thought leaders? Do they post often and present their opinions? Do you agree with them? Can you get in touch with them for an informational chat to learn more about their career progression and views on the industry/company?
Scope Out Social Media
- Find the company as well as key staff and recruiters on social media accounts including Facebook, Quora, Twitter, Instagram, AngelList (for startups), and employee websites/portfolios. “Like” or “Follow” the pages to get updates.
- Explore how the company has digitally branded itself, its sense of culture, and how it has portrayed its market position.
- Allow yourself an opportunity to promote dialog and follow-up with the individuals with whom you will interview. You can ask questions, read their posts, “like” their articles, and comment on blogs.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Google and Browser Searches
- Find the “About Us” page on the company website to review the mission statement and better understand the services and products.
- If there is a “Leadership” section, read the bios of the management team and how they describe themselves, which can be very telling. Do the leaders seem approachable? Do they interact with colleagues online? Do they mention any charity affiliations or interests? Does it seem like they have a life outside of work?
- Use the “News” link in Google or the “Press Room” section of the company website to find current media, financial strength information, events, achievements, industry conditions, recent changes, and up-to-date information on any positive business or negative scandals.
- Search any professional association websites related to the company and industry.
THE POWER OF YOUR NETWORK – TAP INTO YOUR CONNECTIONS
Once you have completed your research and identified connections, pinpoint common interests to discover details of the company not necessarily found online.
Your network can provide the inside scoop and their opinions on interviewing with target companies. Invite them to have coffee or lunch. These informal discussions may bring to light details on the interview process that you can use to leverage yourself as the right match. Ask them about:
- Who the company considers an ideal candidate
- What the hiring process is like
- Benefits offered
- Leadership styles
- Salary ranges
- Inside business operations such as corporate processes and procedures, any known risks, and if there is business growth potential
- Accuracy of online company reviews
Some commonalities you can seek out when making these connections include:
1. Shared Contacts
Search their connections to see who you know in common. “I noticed that you and I both know [NAME]. I used to work with [NAME] at [COMPANY X].”
2. Same Schools
If you share similar backgrounds, that’s an easy way to build rapport. “I see you graduated from [SCHOOL]. I did as well! I loved their [ACTIVITY] club and was very active in it for the four years I was there.”
3. Similar Interests
Perhaps you both belong to the same group? Take that opportunity to mention it in your cover letter or interview. “By the way, I see that we’re both involved in several of the same groups. I find their posts on [TOPIC] incredibly interesting and eye-opening.”
If there is nothing you share in common, you will need to get a little more creative. Think about other topics that might make for an insightful discussion. Perhaps you see they are working on a special project or a new company initiative. Be on the lookout for articles or media that you could share with them.
There are always ways to connect with people by performing pre-interview research and finding similar interests to develop new relationships that support you in your job search.
EMPLOYEE REVIEW AND DATA SITES RESEARCH
When you are in a job search, you are looking for more than just a skills fit. Conducting company research to understand company values and purpose, as well as your market value in the specific field, industry, and geographic location is a crucial step in that preparation.
Online employee review and data sites like Glassdoor, Payscale, Salary, and Crunchbase provide a range of positive and negative insights into companies, including ratings, salaries, and interview information. These reviews are mostly authentic and allow you to understand the environment and landscape before the interview process starts.
Learning all you can about the company shows you are seriously thinking about how the job would fit into your life and are invested in the interview process. Companies are seeking candidates who are aligned with their set of values. Read the reviews to gauge who they consider a great candidate-company fit, and then use that knowledge to better position yourself as a match to their mission and vision.
You have the most leverage in salary negotiations when you are not caught off-guard by salary questions. Use the review sites and online resources such as annual reports and quarterly SEC filings to identify what the market will realistically pay for your background and skills.
In addition, job seekers should use these sites to identify their target company’s key competitors to understand the big picture and be able to speak intelligently about the market. Hiring managers find it very impressive when you can talk about the whole industry and know the key players in the field.
Part of the reason for all this research is to enable you to make links between your past experiences and how they relate to the needs and challenges of a target company. This information can then be synthesized to create SMART stories that help you provide a clear picture of why you are the best fit for the job and the company culture. The acronym stands for situation, metrics, action, results, tie-in (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. SMART stories enable you to position yourself as the strongest fit for the position and demonstrate how your past accomplishments provide immediate value to your future organization.
BEST PRACTICES FOR ORGANIZATIONS – THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING AN EMPLOYER OF CHOICE
One of a company’s greatest assets is having an exemplary brand and being viewed as an employer of choice. Recruiting, retention, and high productivity are part of a company’s reputation that ultimately creates a healthy workplace culture, promotes positive branding, and enables people to feel good about choosing to work there.
Potential employees are doing their research. Having negative reviews and poor industry ratings can turn away great candidates, costing the company time and money in its recruitment cycle. Strategies to consider:
- Build a career website that is strong, easy to find, mobile-friendly, and high-quality. Make sure company philosophy and culture is articulated. Use pictures and employee testimonials to garner interest and reflect who you are as an organization. Having a strategic online presence not only helps you deploy marketing strategies that support business growth, but it also helps establish credibility with prospective employees.
- Ensure your company has a positive social media presence. With so many employer review sites, data sites, and professional social platforms, there are many opportunities for employees, job seekers, and alumni employees to provide positive and negative experiences. Actively monitoring and quickly responding to comments and inquiries can ensure a better online experience and help maintain positive digital visibility.
- Offer enticing perks and options to your workforce that help retain top talent.
- Promote talent mobility and showcase potential promotions or opportunities for professional development, mentorships, and additional training.
- Offer socially conscious employee activities such as food drives, volunteer work, participation in fundraisers that raise awareness for social issues, and opportunities to give back to the community through philanthropic events.
- Extend some flexibility and lift working restrictions for better productivity. Examples of more relaxed initiatives include allowing employees the ability to work remotely, conducting meetings or team planning projects outdoors or offsite for a change of scenery, starting half-day Fridays, and hosting celebrations and lunches for employees.
- Engage employees through recognition programs and additional compensation. You can institute an employee appreciation day, offer awards or benefits to celebrate accomplishments, implement online acknowledgments that encourage peer recognition, or put in place bonus structures that engage the employees and distinguish teams for their hard work.
- Create brand evangelists who speak positively about your company and tell their friends, family, and networks how much they like working at your organization. Be open and honest with existing employees, providing transparency in everything from onboarding to off-boarding and outplacement services. Project your employer brand and be authentic and genuine in the company positioning and workplace culture. Provide quantitative proof of the effectiveness of your programs or services. This authenticity will be respected by current employees and set off a chain reaction that culminates in earning positive online reviews that boost talent attraction.