Job Interviews: So What Do You Know About Us

WorkCoachCafe“So, what do you know about us?”  the interviewer asks the job seeker. This question is taking job seekers by surprise, and it seems to be a make-or-break question. Answer poorly, and you have a tough time convincing them you are really interested in their job. 

I’ve had several job seekers share that this was the first question they were asked when they sat down in the chair for the first interview or at the beginning of  the phone interview (a.k.a., “phone screening”). Say some things that show you have done research on this employer and the interview continues. Have nothing to say about the employer, and the interview is over, even if doesn’t end immediately.

Why Are Employers Asking the Question?

This question is a test of the job seeker’s interest in the employer and the job. Did you just click on “Apply” like hundreds of others because you found the job posting, or did you read the whole description and are really interested in this job with us? If you are not interested enough in the job to do some research about the job and the employer, then the employer is not interested in you. Pretty simple.  

So, What Should a Job Seeker Do?

As the Boy Scouts would say, “Be prepared!”  It will save you time, too, ultimately by helping you avoid places you would not want to work.

Go through your list of target employers (you have one, right!), and check them out.  It’s so easy to do today with the Internet

  1. Visit the employer website!

    What does it say on the “About” page – who are they, where are they, what do they do?   Unless the website is comprised of hundreds of pages, spend at least 30 minutes checking it out. 

    What else does the website show you about them?  If there is a careers or jobs section, check to see what it says about benefits (if anything) and to take a look at the jobs that are open.  Are they adding a lot of sales jobs or a lot of training jobs or ?  Does that give you any insight into what might be going on inside the company?  Or, are only one or two jobs posted for a very large employer?

  2. Google/Bing the employer’s name.

    Check the first couple of pages of search results.  Do you find good things, bad things, or a mix?  Do the bad things seem to be plentiful and true?  Are the good things plentiful and true?  

    If you belong to Google+, you will probably see a list of people in your Google+ network who are connected to the employer in some way.  They could be very good sources of information for you, particularly as you advance through the levels of interviewing and interaction with the potential employer.

    Google currently shows a particularly handy section at the bottom of the first page of results, called “Pages similar to…” which could show you new employers you might want to add to your list of target employers. 

  3. If information is available, visit Yahoo Finance.

    Particularly if the employer is in the financial services industry, is a publicly-traded company with stock for sale on one of the stock markets, or the job is related to the stock market and investing, check the price of the company’s stock on the day of the interview, as close to the time you leave for the interview as possible.  Such knowledge is a basic proof of interest and competence in financial services.

    Even if you are not looking for a finance-related job, the information on Yahoo Finance is extremely helpful.  Stock analysts make their living checking out companies and their products and services to see how well they are doing in the market – and, how well them may be doing in the future.  Links to their reports and news is collected here.  

    This is a great source of “preventive” information – I’ve said for years that you don’t want to be the last person hired before the layoffs begin.  This is one way to avoid that situation.

    Simply go to finance.yahoo.com, and, at the top of the page, type in the stock market symbol (like “IBM” for IBM).  Then, click on the “Get Quotes” button to find the current stock price, plus historical stock pricing and current news about the company.  If you click on “Profile” under the “Company” heading in the left column, you will find a ton of excellent financial information about the company.  

    If the company does not have stock traded publicly in a stock market, you won’t find information in Yahoo Finance.

  4. Check Indeed.com.

    On giant job aggregator Indeed.com, do a “What” search  with the employer’s name to see what jobs are posted.  Then, look for gold stars beside the employer name in the job postings.  If you find gold stars, click on them to read reviews by current and former employees.  At the bottom of every posting is a list of links – click on the “more” link to discover much more information about the employer, including a company page where much of the information is centralized for you to review.

    Also, check to see what other information Indeed can tell you about the company by clicking on the words “Salary Estimate” “Title” “Company” “Location”  and “Job type” in left column of the results page. 

  5. Explore LinkedIn. 

    Of course, LinkedIn provides a ton of information about most medium-sized and large employers, including colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations.  Check out the “connections” to discover who you know who works/worked for this employer (or who knows someone who does/did work there).  Also do a search through the Company pages for the employer’s name to find a real gold mine of information.

Apply only where the “fit” is good, and so is the employer.  Doing this research will help you determine the fit as well as dazzle them when they ask the what-do-you-know-about-us question.

Good luck with your job search!

More About Job Interviews

Answers to the Most Common Job Interview Questions

How to Knock Their Socks Off in a Job Interview

10 Steps to Successful Job Interviewing

 

© Copyright, 2012, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.

———————————————

About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .

Comments

  1. I’ve gotten caught by this question a few times when interviewing for contract positions. I figure you need someone with skill X, I have skill X and I work for a consulting company that will place me somewhere that skill is needed. What your company does is somewhat irrelevant to me assuming I’m only in a support role. This might bother some interviewers but so be it. I will at least read a company’s Wikipedia page so I know what they do but I’m not spending hours on research.

    Having said that, I’ve been in the interviewer’s chair at previous positions and it was shocking how few candidates did any research on our organization at all. Actually, whether interviewing for a $12/hr tech or a $110K/yr director, I remember being surprised at the low quality of candidates in general. It seems like we would inevitably look at each other after the final interviews and say “do we just scrap all of them and start over?” Of course, we also had very strict educational requirements so some very good candidates were probably not even interviewed.

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the comment! You apparently have enough assignments that you don’t need to worry about this quesion, and I hope that doesn’t change for you.

      But, for the majority of job seekers looking for full-time positions, this question can be a deal-killer. And I agree that is is shocking how few candidates do any research. I consider the research to be enlightened self-interest, at a minimum, so the job seeker doesn’t end up in a place with a bad reputation or bad financial position. These days, personal marketing is becoming more of an advantage in the job market, and this is good marketing, demonstrating your interest in the job by demonstrating your interest in them.

      Good luck!
      Susan

  2. This is something I have been working on but I was interviewing for a school district job and they asked why this district, for that question I had a bit of trouble as in my opinion its harder to quantify the differences in school districts and in my role as a IT person, its not as if test scores and other academic goals meant a lot to what I was going to do.

    • Hi Scott,

      Think about this – a school district known for top test scores and aggressive academic goals would probably be on the leading edge of using IT to help the district, teachers and students as well as administrators, continue to excel. And, working for a well-regarded school district reflects well on all of the employees of the district. You like being associated with “the best” and they are.

      Of course, the only works when the school district is the local leader. But, it’s a good question to consider. It’s a variation on the “why do you want to work here” question.

      Good luck!
      Susan

  3. How can job seekers not research the organizations that they are prospecting? When considering an organization as a potential employer, the job seeker needs to investigate whether and how their skills, knowledge, and work style will enable them to contribute to the organization and whether the organization has the type of work environment that the job seeker desires. In short, the job seeker needs to determine whether their employment there will be a win-win situation, and much–but not all–of the investigation required can be done before the interview.

    In addition to searching the internet, which will yield a lot of irrelevant and unverified junk, I recommend going to your college or local library’s website and using the databases that are available there. One of these databases, General OneFile (formerly Infotrac) enables you to search edited and peer-reviewed magazine and trade-journal articles. This link to the Montgomery County, MD, library shows a list of databases which might be available also from your library.

    LinkedIn can provide much valuable information about the people who work at an organization. A professional or trade association can be another valuable resource.

    • chandlee says:

      It is indeed important to research the organizations you’d like to look at. How deep you go depends on the type of job you are looking for: Example — if you are applying to work in a business capacity, reading the Annual Report is a good idea — but reading the entire annual report may not be as necessary if you are applying to work as an Software Programmer.

      While doing homework on a job, it’s also helpful to know if other people like the organization. Sites that have bulletin boards for discussions like Vault.com or employee reviews — see Glassdoor.com — can be valuable. But take any peer reviews with caution — you never know who is actually writing them.

      Thanks again for the comment.

      Chandlee

  4. Dear Susan:

    I have an interview in the next couple of days and the HR staff told me that it is going to consist of a face-to-face interview and an excel test. She also told me it is going to go from 10 am – 12:30 pm. Do you think there is going to be a lunch interview as well? Thank you so much for your help.

    Yours truly,

    Beth

    • chandlee says:

      Beth,

      I would imagine that this will not be a lunch interview, but you can always ask. One good way to get this information is to ask who you will be meeting with. Often, if you are having a group interview and it is over lunch — the schedule will say — “lunch with _____________.”

      Good luck with the interview and don’t forget to brush up on your Excel tests. A good way to learn skills you don’t know, is to check out the instructional videos on YouTube just search “Excel” “training” and other keywords that relate to the skills you want to have.

      Best,
      Chandlee

  5. Dear Chandlee:

    Thank you so much for your suggestion. The reason why I thought there was going to be a lunch interview is because of the interview length. The fact that it is going to take 2.5 hours makes me think that I will be answering questions for about 1 hour at least, which really scares me. In addition, I have never done any Excel test before, so I don’t know what format it is going to be (e.g. multiple choice or excel tasks). Should I do anything else besides watching the instructional videos?

    Yours sincerely,

    Beth

    • chandlee says:

      Beth,

      You likely won’t be asked questions for the entire time; most interviews also include time for your questions as well as time for the employer to educate you about the job. Make sure you have questions to ask them — for example: If hired, how would I work with the people I meet today — and what would be my first priority as I get trained and up and running. (Never ask about salary until job is offered.)

      Study by watching how-to videos (YouTube), using Microsoft Help, and practicing Excel.

      Good luck!

      Chandlee

      • Dear Chandlee:

        I am done the interview, and I am so glad I watched the how-to videos on youtube based on your suggestion. I did an Excel task that comprised of 20 mini-tasks, using different functions of Excel. But I was kind of slow, and perhaps I should have given up on some of the tasks instead of wasting my time trying. Overall I feel that I should have spent even more time watching those youtube videos. So thank you very much for your suggestion and I hope you have a great week!

        Yours truly,

        Beth

        • chandlee says:

          Beth,

          Congrats on finishing your interview and thanks for sharing your experiences with us. In sum, sounds like your recommendations to the community for anyone facing a skills based interview are:

          1. Spend time with the application you will be tested on (potentially looking for online training resources or demo tests)
          2. Watch YouTube videos for common tasks you don’t know how to do.
          3. When you take the test, skip the questions for tasks you don’t know how to do (or maybe guess if an answer is required)

          You may want to follow-up with a thank you note to the employer, address the fact that you know you “spent longer taking the Excel test” than other candidates but share your approach to technology —

          Example:

          Thank you for meeting with me. I remain interested in the position.

          I realize that I took longer to complete the Excel test than many candidates do, and I wanted to explain how I approach technology. I’m self taught and would benefit from a Basic training skills class if hired for this position, but not knowing something never stops me from trying to figure out how to do something. If hired for the job and asked to perform an Excel task I don’t know how to do, I would likely seek out Microsoft Help or a free YouTube training video on the topic first (there are many videos on how to use Excel). If this took more than ten minutes, I’d ask a colleague to show me.

          I remain interested in the position and appreciate your continued consideration.

          Good luck, Beth!

  6. Cafe Patron says:

    I have taken such tests in previous job interviews, and I believe that your test will be a hands-on exercise.

    If you have Excel on your home computer, practice with it by building a personal budget spreadsheet, creating a time sheet to document your job search activities, or doing any another project that could be useful to you. Use basic features that you haven’t used previously but also concentrate on reinforcing skills that you already know. I wouldn’t try to learn advanced features such as pivot tables unless you strongly believe that the job requires them.

    If you are applying for an admin asst position, you may be graded on how long I takes you to perform specified tasks.

    By the way, Wednesday, April 25, is Administrative Professionals’ Day (formerly called Secretaries’ Day).

    • Yes. It was a hands-on exercise indeed. I was told that the average person spends about 30-40 min to complete the whole task, but I didn’t know how to do a couple of the tasks, so I actually went online to search for ways of doing them. That was really a waste of time, and in the end I spent about 1 hour, which is going to look really bad. Overall I feel that if I had only focused on doing the mini-tasks that I knew by heart, and if I had given up on those couple I was unsure about, the results would probably be a lot better. I wasn’t tested on pivot tables, unlike in one of my previous interviews, so I feel learning the basics is what’s important, just like you said :D Thank you for comments.

  7. Cafe Patron says:

    Beth:

    I disagree with Chandlee’s suggestion about explaining your performance on the Excel test in your thank-you letter to the employer. I suggest re-iterating your strengths or acomplishments, especially in the context of any duties, responsibilities, roles, challenges, or problems that the interviewer mentioned. Show them that you were listening to them. If I were you, I would not mention anything about the Excel test. If you’ve had a significant amount of work experience that required extensive use of spreadsheets, you could perhaps mention that.

    Good luck!

Speak Your Mind