Two years ago I was consumed by an extensive job hunt in which I experienced a wide range of emotions: joy, depression, reflection on my worth, and evaluation of my skills.
Then… I experienced a revelation. An “ah-ha” moment.
What immediately struck me was that my perspective was completely wrong. I had been focusing all of my energy into my look, maximizing my interview personality skills and optimizing my resume…
In short, I failed to make the interview about me, instead of them!
To make that monumental change in my approach, I learned extensive research was required… a process around understanding both the company and the role you seek there. Let’s eat this elephant one bit at a time…
Understand the Company
Understanding the company thoroughly involves three steps:
Step 1: The Annual Report
The fundamental purpose of the annual report is to increase engagement with investors and to inform potential clients of future developments. However, this document is very useful for the job seeker in understanding the goals, mission, and specific prospectus of the organization.
First, the annual report usually opens with a letter to investors written by the firm’s CEO. This letter will assist you in gaining understanding of the organizations culture from the top-down.
Second, it usually highlights whether the organization is facing difficult times or experiencing growth. Finally, there would possibly be discussion of the firm’s future aspirations. Future aspirations would be important, for example, if you are interested in international travel and the CEO expresses the desire for the organization to expand globally.
The next portion of the annual report usually identifies the members of the corporate board to include a brief biography for the members. I utilize the board member information to do brief individual research on the industry background of each member in order to understand the philosophical slant of the organization. This helps be to forecast more broadly where the organization may go in the future.
The financial reports are typically next, and there are some key passages in this report. One of the first questions usually advanced by an interviewer is, “what do you know about this company?” Well…in part 1 of the financial report is usually located a complete overall of the mission of the organization, and a brief history. Moreover, for the larger organization there is often a breakdown of the separate business units.
This part serves a two-fold benefit: (1) allowing the reader to understand the task organization; (2) and assist the reader in understanding company terminology.
Yep…this provides shared meaning between you and the interviewer…you know what you are talking about!
Included in the annual report is analysis of economic factors effecting the financial statement, and the impact on future business strategy. This information can clue you in on if you even what to pursue to opportunity.
Step 2: Social Media Review
The second step in my research plan is to conduct a social media review of the company utilizing Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Most times the organization will issue virtual press releases in relation to brands, emerging technology, game changing trends, and mergers and acquisitions through social media. I would follow the organization for a period of time through each of these mediums to determine what is important to them. Then I would weave this knowledge into my interview. This philosophy logically flows into the next criterion.
Moreover, most organizations have integrated content production into their information strategy, including blog written by business segment managers and individual contributors. In essence the company is providing you with a glimpse behind the wizard’s veil, and this information is useful if strategically presented during your interview. Also, I have been in the practice of examining the feedback left by others on the company at Glassdoor.com.
Step 3: Read Related Trade Magazine
In my job search I specifically targeted high-tech organizations. In order to fully understand the overall scope of this industry I focused on reading related trade magazines, such as: CIO Magazine, Wired, PC World, Technology Review, etc. This provided me with a 30,000 foot outlook of the industry as a whole, and the ability to bookmark specific information relating to the company I was interested in. This increases my ability to communicate with the interviewer on an operational level. According to Manager-Tools.com, Mark Horstman, “communication is what the listener hears”.
It’s about connection!
Understand the Role
The development of research in the area of understand the role that you are applying for is not very difficult. My recommendations on this are two:
Step 1: Examine the Job Requisition
When applying for a specific position, primarily, be conscience of the requirements associated with the position. Stop applying for those positions which you are not even remotely qualified for. It is a waste of time.
Now, off my soapbox!
Be ready to fully analyze the job posting. I prefer to go line by line to understand fully what the company is looking for. Once understanding is achieved I reflect on my own professional history and find situations where I performed in scope with the requirement. This is the basis of the preparation for my resume.
Understand…your resume should not be static, the resume is a dynamic process that will align to each requisition that you apply for. However, be sure to remain honest.
Step 2: Connect with Incumbents
It pays dividends in two ways when you request informational interviews with those who currently hold positions similar to the position you are interested in. Primarily, this informational session will provide you a clearer understanding of the job, common learning curves associated with entering the field, and best practices to implement. Second, this process will build your professional network within your field.
Joel Osteen, noted Houston pastor, affirmed in a recent sermon that “you never know who your success gatekeepers could be!” Therefore, meet and share your passion with everyone you can. Filter and analyze this information. Once fully vetted make the most important products of these interviews a practical part of your resume toolkit and interview preparation process.
This is my process for interview preparation which was berthed in my desperation. I guess…as Frederick Douglass once said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
Now, I don’t have to worry about if I am ready for interviews. Or if it is more “me” than “them”. I have done my research… and a lot of it!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Life Skills Academy!
About the Author: Nick Guidry is a job search and professional skills enthusiast and blogger who loves discusses all things related to veteran transitioning and technology enabled job hunting. He is the chief contributor at his life skills blog – LifeSkillsAcademy which shares new, exciting and informative discoveries based on empirical success and failure as a job seekers and recently transitioned Soldier.