When you look at most of the advice on job hunting, a lot of it boils down to how to answer questions. Whether it’s how to answer “what do you do?” in a networking meeting or how to answer “tell me about yourself” in a first round job interview, it’s answering questions. Even later round pieces of advice are things like how to answer the “what’s your greatest weakness?” question or how to give a perfect response to a situational or behavioral interview question.
There’s nothing wrong with having a really well-prepared answer to a question that you anticipate, and in fact that shows a lot of positive strengths. But often what happens is that this dearth of answer-advice literature leaves us thinking that all we need to do is have a perfectly sculpted answer to each question and we can Jedi-mind trick our way into the new position.
But when it comes to leaving a lasting impression in a job interview, only having the right answer—even if you have ALL the right answers—is actually an easy way to be forgotten.
If you want to be remembered, be invited to the next round, or be offered the job, then it’s all about having the right questions.
Humans are uniquely interesting beings, and they’re especially interested in themselves. So what is most likely to help you leave a lasting impression on any other human isn’t how interesting you appear; it’s how interested you appear in them and their company. So when the tables turn and the interviewer signals “what questions do you have for me?” You need to have questions, and ones that demonstrate interest.
To do this, you need to know about them.
You need to know about the company (and more than the stock price and the CEO’s name).
You need to know their founding story.
You need to know how they have evolved.
You need to know about the company culture.
You need to know about the interviewer.
And you need to take all that you know and use it to craft questions that only someone who knows and is genuinely interested in working for that company would ask.
So go back and read archives in the Wall Street Journal. Find articles about past situations the company overcame. Find things that you admire about the company or its leaders that you can bring up about the company. Read reviews on Glassdoor—positive and negative ones—so that you can figure out what the company culture is like.
From all of that information—from that research that goes deeper than any other candidate—will come questions that investigate deeper than any other candidate, that show a stronger interest in the company, and a stronger interest in being a part of that company’s mission, vision and its strategic plan than any other candidate.
A side note: I realize this doesn’t really scale. You can’t apply for 50 jobs and do deep research on each of them. But you probably shouldn’t be applying for 50 jobs all at once anyway. You should be applying to the ones that initial research reveals to be the right opportunities…and then do deeper research on those few.
So do the research, choose, and then do more research. Learn everything a current employee would know, and even some things they may have forgotten. If you do that, your genuine interest in working for the company will become apparent, and you’ll be that much more interesting to the interviewer.
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