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Winning roles and attracting talent: the importance of research in the interview process

We’ve all been in the interview seat before, answering questions about our experience, our skills, and why we think we’d be a great fit for the role.

And then comes the question “What do you know about our company?”. How you answer this next question is the game-changer – and could be the deciding factor between a big fat rejection letter or an offer of employment.

To give you some context here, I used to work with a hiring manager who would ask candidates “have you visited our website?” as part of his routine interview questions.

If the answer was no, he would stop the interview right then and there and tell the interviewee that if they haven’t taken the time to visit their website and learn about what they do, they are clearly not invested in the role or this process. Game over.

My question I’d like to raise today is how important is it to research the company you are interviewing with? And by research, I’m not just talking about a company’s key services and offerings.

I’m talking a deep dive – to learn the ins and outs of a company beyond their website - not just to impress the hiring manager on the day of your interview, but to also assess whether this company is going to be the right fit for you and your career.

Selling the role

As an executive recruiter I do my part in facilitating this process and will always ask potential candidates “How much do you know about the company”?

I understand a big part of the role of a good recruiter is selling not only the role but the company, so I will typically send a link to the website, any corporate videos the company may have, and if I’m doing an executive search, I’ll take this a step further and try do a podcast or interview with the CEO or managing director, selling benefits of the role and the values and vision of the company.

It’s then up to the candidate to comb through this content and learn more about the company.

The downside of this is, however, is when it comes to the interview day, if a company fails to follow through with its values reflected on its website, job description etc, it leaves the potential candidates feeling dissatisfied with the company. This can be very harmful to the brand and market perception of the company, and you might be waving goodbye to some really great talent.

My advice for interviewees

When you begin researching a company, their website is, of course, the first point of call. I then suggest the following:

· If it’s a listed company, you should be having a look at their ASX releases and assess how the company is performing financially, as well as culturally – have there been any big management shakeups, acquisitions you need to know about etc).

· Next step is a Google search of the company to see whether any interesting

(or problematic) news articles come up or if there are any Google Reviews.

· Then fire up LinkedIn and see what people are saying about the company there.

· You may also like to do some quick competitor research to see who else is in this industry.

Tip: Have a notepad handy and write down questions or knowledge gaps along the way as you go to help formulate interview questions you will want to ask the hiring manager at the interview.

I also advise all interviewees to pick up the phone, prior to applying for the position and request to have a quick chat with the hiring manager.

By making a personal connection via phone, you’re already ahead of the pack and showing you care about the role and are invested. Make sure you have a few prepared questions to ask about the role to get a better gauge for what’s involved and whether this company is potentially a place you want to move your career to.

Last tip from me: Have you also Googled yourself? I always say to candidates, it’s important to watch what you put on social media, that you have the right profile and a persona online that is aligned with company values. Because people will do a social media /Google stalk and you don’t want your profiles to let you down.

Advice for hiring managers/companies

The onus is also on companies to do your part to attract the right talent for your roles, and ensure your public profile and content is aligned with your company and culture.

During the interview stage, you’re vetting potential candidates for the vacant role. But companies also need to be aware people are doing research on you too. If you let them down in the process, you’re letting your brand down.

In an emerging gig economy and skills shortages in many industries, this is exacerbated further, and it is the employer’s responsibility to do their part in making their workplace an attractive place for people to work, a place they are proud to work.

It’s not just salary that’s going to attract talent – there are many contributing factors into why employees seek and accept new positions.

In a 2021 Harvard Business Review article ‘What your Future Employees Want Most’ it revealed findings from the Citrix’s Work 2035 project, a Talent Accelerator study that combined research from more than 2000 workers and 500 HR directors in large, established corporations and mid-market businesses in the US.

Findings included:

- 88% of workers said that when searching for a new position, they will look for one that offers complete flexibility in their hours and location.

- 86% of employees said they would prefer to work for a company that prioritizes outcomes over output.

- 86% of employees and 66% of HR directors assert that a diverse workforce will become even more important as roles, skills, and company requirements change over time.

- 88% of employees want to work for an organization that has the latest collaborative technology in place to enable agile learning.

Over to you

I hope this blog post has raised some helpful ideas and issues with you, whether you’re looking to branch into a new role, or you’re a company planning to recruit,

my door is always open for a chat, so if you’d like to discuss any of the points raised, I encourage you to send me a message on LinkedIn or email.

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