Gayle Hallgren-Rezac co-author Work The Pond!
Standout job interviews can help you land jobs. But, if you want to stand out at job interviews, you need to make the right impression. Benjamin Franklin said it best: “It’s hard for an empty bag to stand upright.” If you don’t have some substance behind you, it’s hard to make a great impression. There are two key areas where doing your homework can really help you to make the right impression with potential employers.
Consider that life is a never-ending job interview. Every time you meet someone there’s a possibility of new opportunities, and one of those opportunities could be enhancing your career. But, the content of your conversation says a lot about you. For example, someone recently engaged me in a conversation on global warming, and when I mentioned “Kyoto” (shorthand for the Kyoto Protocol), they replied, “What’s Kyoto?” What, were they living under a rock? Sorry to say, but not having this very basic knowledge of the climate issue changed my opinion of the individual. You don’t have to be a Jeopardy nerd, but some knowledge of current affairs, politics, economics and global issues is important. And, there’s no excuse because there’s the World Wide Web and it’s free!
Of course there are other, less serious, topics of conversation that make great firestarters. But there’s nothing that can douse a conversation more quickly than someone who proudly states: “I never read the newspaper.” “Sorry, I’m not into hockey.” You don’t have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Sedin twins’ stats but you should have a passing acquaintance with local sports teams, local business leaders and community issues.
Here’s a quick quiz: Can you describe these popular business concepts?
• Tipping Points?
• Blue Oceans?
• Black Swans?
If you think these concepts have something to do with “The Biggest Loser”, offshore racing or bird watching, it’s time to find out more. When you’re in the job market, the more involved and knowledge seeking you are, the better. You don’t have to agree with these theories but having a working knowledge helps you take part in interesting conversations.
Over “The Desk”
Sitting in the hot seat at a job interview is very stressful, but you’ll feel more confident if you show up well versed in interview basics and information about the company, the interviewer and the industry. One of the biggest frustrations I hear voiced by executives is a potential job applicant who comes to the interview with very little knowledge about the company. They use their time with the executive as part of a “fact finding” mission. Do your homework first. People are impressed when you ask in-depth questions about the company and the industry.
For starters, know the company’s history and read the annual report and the corporate social responsibility report. You’ll be memorable if you can throw some real facts into the conversation (the number of offices worldwide, number of employees, their ranking on “best companies to work for list”, or their positive impact in the community). And, above all else, know the company’s products and services.
Look up key players in the organization and read bios of the people interviewing you. Knowing they graduated from the same university as you or possibly share some interests helps you make a connection. Look for opportunities to make comments, such as:
• “I went to McGill as well.”
• “I read that you are an avid scuba diver. I’m a scuba instructor in my spare time.”
• “I see you worked at Company XYZ. My economics professor does consulting there.”
You may have had the same professors, dived in the same places or met some of the same people. By bringing that up, you can make a real connection — and that’s powerful. The bottom line: knowledge makes you memorable.