HOW TO RESEARCH A COMPANY FOR A JOB INTERVIEW
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Our 150-page in-depth ‘Interview Skills’ guide will provide you with lots of insider tips and advice on how to pass any job interview. It contains sample responses to 50 of the toughest interview questions!
Hello and welcome to the Interview Expert Module 3. My name is Richard McMunn and for the duration of this next module, we’re going to look into the important topic of how to research a company that you’re applying for and also researching the role that you have applied for.
Now, picture this scene. You’re interviewing somebody for a job and you asked the person, “Okay, tell us what you’ve learned about the role and tell us what you’ve learned about this organization.” If that person turned around to you and said, “Well, I’m sorry. I haven’t really had time to learn about the organization or the job yet,” then obviously, as an interviewer, you’re not going to be too impressed and they’re not going to get the job.
The important tip here is to make sure that you carry out plenty of research in relation to the role and the organization and that will show that you’re highly motivated and enthusiastic about the job before you actually started.
This online course, so far, we’ve covered Module 1, which was the mindset for passing interviews including the formula for success, Module 2 was about interview technique and now Module 3 is research. We’re really starting to put together some positive building blocks that will allow us to successfully pass the interview. Let’s summarize on the previous module. I’ve mentioned the qualities of a good employee a couple of times now and they are very, very important.
As you can imagine from an interviewer’s perspective, you want to see all of those positive qualities, so make sure you go back during the first and second modules and revisit them, write them down and really focus on demonstrating those qualities. Try and demonstrate them at the interview and also think about good interview technique. We spoke about arriving at the interview in good time, then going into the reception area, being polite and pleasant to the employees and the people there because basically, they’re the ones who got to work with you.
Think about first impressions when you walk through the door, how you look, introduce yourself. Make sure you dress smart. Dress for the occasion and think about effective communication. Asking questions at the end of the interview and also a final powerful statement, which I’ve given you and then also preparing the questions using the STAR method.
Okay, so research. Basically, I recommend, and this is a strong recommendation, that you get hold of the job description and the person specification for the role. Now, I’m going to look at these individually in a second and I’ll give you a sample of them.
If you’re going to the interview and you haven’t got these documents, then I suggest you try and get hold of the company and just say to them, “Look, have you got a copy of the job description or the person specification?” You should have found one in the application pack to be honest.
Basically, without these documents, you’re not going to be able to follow the success formula. You really, really need to look into these and make sure that you learn, understand them and be able to apply them during the interview.
You also need to research the role that you’re applying for and you can do that by either speaking to people who are already working for the company and you also need to research the organization and the company that you are planning to join. You can do that in a number of ways which I will come on to soon.
Let’s take a look at a sample job description. Basically, a job description, what is it? Well, it details the role. It sets out what you will be required to do in the job. It’s a blueprint for how you should perform in the role and it will generally give you a summary and it will also detail the duties and responsibilities that you’ll be required to do and that’s important that you follow them and learn them.
Now, if the interviewer says to you, “Okay, can you tell us what the role involves?” I would prepare for the question by learning off by hear the duties and responsibilities. Learn the job description. You can say, “Yes, the role involves X, Y and Z. I’ve learned the job description and I’m fully aware of what it involves.”
The added benefit of learning the job description is that you can then come up with examples of where you’ve already done these kinds of roles in a previous job. If you can demonstrate you’ve already got experience of carrying out this role, then that’s going to work in your favour surely.
Learn the summary, the duties and the responsibilities before you go to the interview. As I just mentioned, try and think of previous experiences that you have that match the job description. Now, what I’m going to do is take a look at a sample job description, okay?
This is for a role which is a customer service representative role. It’s a job description and it’s basically just a sample to explain what you need to do. You’re going to learn the job description for the role that you’re applying for. It says, “Customer service representatives act as a link between the customer and the business or the organization. They ensure that customers are satisfied with the product or service and still maintain profitable customer relationships.”
What customer service representatives do? You’re required to deal quickly and efficiently with customer’s inquiries or complaints by phone, post or email. We’ll just look at that one. You can begin to think of a question that you could get asked during the interview and this is how to predict interview questions. This is a job description.
I would say from that, that a sample question will be, “Can you give an example of where you’ve dealt with a customer’s complaint in an efficient and effective manner?” Then you’ll have to come up with an example. That would be a question that I will be preparing for, for this particular role.
“Expedite customer orders including keeping them informed of delays or early fulfilment.” Again, a sample question, “Can you give an example of where you’ve carried out really good customer service in terms of fulfilling orders for that customer? Talk us through what you did and how you dealt with the order. Also explain to us how you kept the customer updated and how often that was done.” That’s another sample question.
“Occasionally work antisocial hours in order to meet customer requirements, solve their problems and, thus, encourage future business.” A sample question in relation to that would be, “Can you give us an example of how to be flexible in a work environment? Have you stayed behind after work to carry out additional duties? How would you feel about that?”
You can see what I’m doing is I’m working through the job description and coming up with sample questions and that’s what I recommend you do is get hold of your job description, work through it, learn it off by heart, and then predict the questions that could come up.
“Proactively foresee possible delays or complications and plan strategies to avoid or minimize them.” That could be, “Could you give an example of where you’ve had to plan and organize ahead to reduce the risk of problems occurring?”
“Develop and implement new systems, procedures or working practices to improve customer service efficiency.” “Can you give us an example of where you’ve improved customer service in a previous role?”
“Ensure the accuracy of financial records for billing purposes, occasionally negotiating and alteration to the stated price or terms or conditions as compensation to customers.” “The key skills for the role are self-motivation, diplomacy and reliability, enthusiastic and effective team member, good communicator, investigate and problem solve.” The sample questions from the skills that are required for this role would be as follows.
“Can you give us an example of when you’ve been self-motivated? Can you give us an example of when you’ve had to be reliable in a role and when you’ve had to deal diplomatically with customers or other people? Can you give an example of where you’ve been an effective team member or where you
carried out a role as part of a team? What did you do and what did other people do? Can you give an example of where you’ve demonstrated really good customer service and good communication skills? Also, can you give examples of where you’ve investigated problems or where you’ve solved a difficult
problem whilst under pressure?” That is how to dissect a job description. I guarantee that some of the questions you get asked during the interview will come from the job description, they certainly will and from the person specification.
Let’s go back to our presentation. Make sure you get a copy of the job description. This is where you’re carrying out lots of research. Now, the person specification basically details the requirements for the role. The job description is about the job and what it involves. The person specification will tell you about the job, but it will also tell you about you and what you’re supposed to be like in this job.
It will usually dictate both essential and desirable criteria. The essential criteria are what you must have in order to apply for the role. That will sometimes be in relation to qualifications or experiences. For example, you may need a first aid certificate, you might need a health and safety or NEBOSH qualification. Go through the person spec and make sure you actually meet the essential criteria.
The desirable ones are ones that you don’t have to have. They’re nice to have, but a word of warning, the more desirable criteria that you can demonstrate or have, the more chance you will have of getting this job. For example, if I was applying for a job and one of the desirable qualities was that of a first aid certificate, if I didn’t have one, I’d probably go out and get one. I’d probably go out and get on a one-day course because that would put me ahead of the competition.
As stated there, you must match the essential criteria. Try to match as many desirable’s as possible and then think of examples where you match both essential and desirable criteria. Basically go through the job description thinking, “Hey, I’ve done this in a previous situation,” and write down before you go to interview where you’ve matched them.
Let’s take a look at a sample person specification. This is for a customer services advisor role. There’s a key that will normally be applied on a person specification. If you see an A next to it, that’s on the application form. If you see an I, it’s what will be assessed at interview and, therefore, you need to be able to demonstrate it. We’ll go through this and have a look at the different I’s that you’ll need to apply during the interview. An R is for either role play or a test.
Let’s work through. During this, it says qualifications and experience. The first one that I come across is experience of using Windows-based computer packages. That will be assessed on the application form and at interview. They’re telling you basically that they’re going to ask you a question during the interview and might say, “What experience do you have of using Windows-based computer packages?” You can predict the question and respond to it during the interview. If this was a job that you’re applying for, you’d need to come up with a response to that question. “Knowledge and skills: Ability to communicate clearly and effectively by telephone, in person and in writing.” You will be assessed during the interview in relation to that.
The question might be, “Can you give us an example of where you’ve communicated effectively in different varying mediums?” You can give examples of telephone, person and in writing. If I was preparing for this interview, I’d think of scenarios where I communicated by telephone effectively, also in person and in writing.
You see on the right-hand side there, these are the essentials, these are desirable. “Handling and resolution of customer complaints.” Even though it’s desirable, which means it’s not essential, I would be coming up with a response to that question. The question would be, “Can you give an example
of where you’ve had to deal with a customer complaint? What did you do?” You can start to see how you can make the chances of passing the interview increase by following this success formula.
This is an essential one, “Ability to make effective decisions within established procedures.” The question might be, “Can you give us an example of where you’ve made an effective decision whilst following company policy?” “A methodical and accurate approach to work activities,” again, during the interview. They could say, “Can you explain to us how you follow work activities? What do you do?” You’d have to say, and I would use words like, “Well, whilst I carry out my duties at work, I always make sure that I’m methodical. Basically, I work through it in a systematic manner.” You might want to give an example of where you’ve done that. I would also make sure I’m accurate. “I work through my work carefully and I double check it, see that it’s okay.”
“Capable of following procedures and systematic processes,” again, in the interview. “Good organizational skills.” They will ask you in the interview because it’s got an I there, “Can you give an example of where you’ve demonstrated really good positive organization skills?”
Here’s another I, “Evidence of delivering a first class service to a diverse range of customers from initial point of contact.” They could say to you, “Can you give us an example of where you’ve delivered really good service to different customers? Talk us through what you did.” You would have to explain there what you did from the initial point of contact right through to the delivery of the service, checking that the customer is really happy.
Okay, we’re now coming on to attitude, “Ability to act on your own initiative.” They might say, “Can you give us an example of where you’ve acted on your own initiatives?” You can come up with a situation. “Commitment to a quality of opportunity and diversity.” They’re looking for that in the interview.
They might say to you, “Can you give us an example of where you’ve worked with people from different backgrounds or cultures?” Try and think of a situation where you’ve worked with people who are different from you whether that’s in terms of background, in terms of race, in terms of age, disability, the list goes on. Try and think of situations where you’ve worked with different people and situations.
I mentioned earlier on about the team question. You’re virtually guaranteed to get asked the question about teamwork if that is the kind of role you’re applying for. “Can you give us an example of where you’ve effectively worked as part of the team?” “You’ve been committed to delivering first class customer service. You’re able and willing to deal effectively with a diverse range of customer inquiries, willingness to take ownership for resolution of inquiries and complaints.”
“Can you give us an example where you’ve dealt with a complaint?” “Ability to remain calm when dealing with difficult or distressed people.” That is going to be a question. “Understanding of the need for confidentiality and discretion and also willingness to undertake training and personal development.”
Go through. It’s easy. Go through the person specification and even if you don’t get the key, which in this case you do with the application form, the interview and the role play, just go through it and make sure you can come up with responses to all of it, every different element of it. You can see here how you can predict the questions to the interview.
That’s the job description and the person specification. Now, you need to research the company. I would try and visit the company before the interview. I’d ring them up and say, “I’ve got an interview. Is it all right if I come along and just find out about the company, meet the team and learn about it?” That is really positive. Make the effort to go along and see them.
Visit the website of the company as well. Go on the website and spend an hour on it, writing down what they do, writing down about the products or the services that they give out. Also, look for any charts or mission statements. I’ll go through one of these in a minute. Learn as much as possible about them before you go to the interview.
Let’s have a look at a sample mission and vision statement. Now, this is for the Coca-Cola Company, probably one of the largest companies in the world, but it’s just an example. Some companies that you apply for will have these and they might say to you, “What is our mission or our vision?” You’d be able to read here Our Mission. This is where the company is heading towards. “Our Roadmap starts with our mission, which is enduring.
It declares our purpose as a company and serves as the standard against which we weigh our actions and decisions:” Also, the vision. What is the vision about? About the people, “Be a great place to work where people are inspired to be the best they can be.”
You can scroll down and it says here about what they expect from their people, “Leadership, collaboration, integrity, accountability, passion, diversity, and quality.” I would be learning these before I went to the interview if I was applying for this company. Work smart. If they say to you at the interview, “What do we expect of our employees?” You can say, “Well, you got to act of urgency, you got to remain responsive to change, have the courage to change course when needed,” etc., etc. Make sure you learn as much as possible about the company and look at the Mission Statement.
We’ve covered a huge amount there in terms of looking at the job description, the person specification and also the company. The tip is to make sure during your research that you get all of the JD, the job description. Learn it. Make sure you can match it. Get the person specification and make sure that you can match the essential criteria and also as many as possible as the desirables. Work through the person specification and predict your own interview questions.
We’re now going to move on to the next module, which is that of Interview Questions and Answers.