Want that job? Do your homework in advance

Knowing more about your prospective employer can be a big plus. Photo: Darkojow / StockFreeImages.com

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2013 – Employers across the country have told me that the number one reason otherwise-qualified job seekers fail during an interview is that they simply do not know enough about the job they are seeking. This is even true for candidates within a company who are applying for a higher-level position.

The amount of applicants who walk into an interview session presuming they did not have to do any homework is shocking. Many believe that a magnetic personality and a self-evident skillset would make them an obvious choice for any open position. This is the wrong approach!

Unfortunately for overconfident job seekers, charm alone does not make an applicant a good “fit” for the organization or the job. Job applicants would be wise to diligently “over prepare” for an interview.

Employers say that many applicants forgo even the most basic research – like checking out the company website—when applying for a job. In the age of smartphones and Internet access everywhere, failing to read the company website is a deal breaker, a crystal clear signal that an applicant’s resume belongs in the shredder. 

Though the company’s public website may only offer a cursory bit of knowledge to a job seeker (such as the company’s overall mission as well as products offered and services rendered), checking it out is a critical first step in the job candidate’s research process.

Most interviewers want to know exactly what the applicant knows about the target job and the target company. Applicants should be fully versed on potential job responsibilities and able to meet all job description criteria including requisite skills and education. Optimally, they should also be fully aware of who their immediate organizational supervisor and coworkers likely will be, and should know in advance if “the boss” would be in the room during an interview.

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A lot of this information may be found within the job opening advertisement itself. One should be sure to read the description very carefully. If not enough information is available within the ad, a strategically minded person would call the company’s human resource department for a fuller description and to inquire about the specifics such as who will be conducting the interview.

One valuable resource, O*Net, is a website developed by the US Department of Labor. The site could provide additional, more general answers to any job-related questions a person may have.

If a job seeker is applying to work at a publicly traded company, more information can be gleaned from financial reports. For instance, one could find out if this company is profitable, if it’s growing, and if there are particular departments the company has declared it is investing in. Job seekers should scour the web to learn of current advertising campaigns. They should also read up on news reports that shed light on what’s going on at the company in order to determine public perceptions.

By the time an applicant sits down for an interview, he or she should know the names of all the people in the room and their job titles. By knowing these critical details in advance, a shrewd job seeker could Google the names of the interviewers to find out if they’ve published research or posted a LinkedIn profile online – and perhaps even find out what they look like.

In this way, the interview can become more than a one-way question and answer session. Ideally, it would evolve into an interactive, getting-to-know-you conversation. Most importantly, with enough preparation, an interview can be a refreshing way for a job applicant to explain in detail precisely how his or her hiring would be a value-added proposition for the company.

Today, doing homework in advance on a proposed employer might be all it takes for a job seeker to successfully join or rejoin the ranks of the fully employed. At the very least, such advance research will go a long way toward moving to the front of the queue.


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Cassi Fields

Dr. Cassi Fields has provided expert opinion on career and workplace issues for nationally recognized media outlets including Forbes, TheStreet TV, MSNBC.com, FOX News Live, US News & World Report, Recruiter.com, WUSA9, News Channel 8, HR.com, and more. Dr. Fields, who received her Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from George Washington University, lives in Virginia with her husband and two children.

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