Have You Done Your Homework? When an Interviewer Asks What You Know About the Company

What Do I Need to Know words in 3d letters beside a thinker wondering about information he must have for a job, task or learning in education

One of the most common tactics interviewers apply when interviewing candidates is to see whether you’ve researched the organization before the interview. Here’s a guide for responding to company-knowledge questions.

Interviewer motivation for asking: Quite simply, the interviewer wants to know that you’ve done your homework. The employer expects you to come into the interview with thorough knowledge of the organization and the position. The interviewer wants you to know the organization well enough so that you also know what you can contribute and perhaps how you can respond to the employer’s issues and challenges. The degree to which you’ve researched the employer shows your level of interest in the job. The interviewer may also ask you about the geographic area in which the organization is located if relocation is part of the job.

Strategy for response: Having done your due diligence and performed extensive research on the employer and the job, showcase that knowledge in your responses. Be prepared to demonstrate not only what you know about the organization, position, and geographic area, but also what you like about them. When asked about the contribution you can bring to the employer, relate one of your accomplishments to a need that your research has told you this organization has. If you are asked about solving a company problem, be sure your research has given you sufficient background about the issue before responding. If it has not, ask the interviewer questions (such as finding out what approaches have been applied to this problem in the past and why they haven’t worked) to get sufficient information. Don’t assume that a solution that worked in one of your past positions will automatically work for this employer.

Sample questions in this subject area:

  • Tell me what you know about our company.
  • Why did you decide to seek a position in this company?
  • Why are you seeking this position?
  • Why do you think you might like to live and work in the community in which our company is located?
  • If you were hiring for this position, what qualities would you look for?
  • What suggestions do you have for our organization?
  • What are your expectations for this position?
  • What do you expect to contribute to our organization?
  • What changes would you make in the organization?
  • What can you tell me about our organization’s …
    • Size?
    • Key stakeholders?
    • History?
    • Revenues?
    • Products/services?
    • Mission statement?
    • Most recent media releases?
    • Competitors? News about the competitors?

Sample responses for this subject area:

Question: Why do you think you might like to live and work in the community in which
our company is located?

Response: The great thing about Bentonville is that the city is a microcosm of WalMart’s strengths, as well as the opportunities and challenges facing the company. Bentonville, like many places across the U.S., has changed dramatically since the time when the first WalMart store opened there. In fact, just in the past 40 years or so, the population has more than quadrupled–going from a rural community of about 5,000 people in the 1970s to more than 20,000 today. While still the county seat, the town has seen the development of upscale neighborhoods and shopping centers. Just like the town, WalMart’s growth and expansion over the past 40 years has brought amazing success, but also many new challenges, especially as the traditional markets become saturated and the company expands into new and unchartered territory. Thus, driving around Bentonville and talking with the townspeople will not only be a fun and challenging experience–as any move to a new town is–but I believe the experience can also help foster new strategic ideas for helping WalMart achieve even greater success.

Final Thoughts

Never neglect this important research facet of job-interviewing. The Internet puts just about everything you’d need to know at your fingertips. Don’t forget, too, that your research can include gathering insights from people who already work for the organization.

If you need help with your job search, consider coaching with us.

Give us a call at 386-749-3111
Send us an email at beverly@harveycareers.com
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Are You Overqualified?

Ever been told you’re overqualified? Overqualified can mean many things such as:

  • too many years of experience
  • too much education or too many credentials
  • too highly paid in your current or previous job
  • too dated, senior or old.

Or, it can simply be a way to eliminate you from the running because you’re not the right ‘fit’ for the position. Overqualified is often a category that encompasses a wide variety of factors or qualities related to fit.

Many hiring managers feel that overqualified is a complimentary and safe way to explain your elimination from consideration for the position.

So how do you respond if you’ve been told that you’re overqualified? First, you’ll want to switch the language from “overqualified” to “fully qualified.” Having all the qualifications simply means you’re fully qualified and can do the job extraordinarily well. Isn’t that what the company is looking for?

If you’re in an interview and you’ve just been told you’re overqualified, respond with a question to find out specifically how the interviewer feels you’re overqualified. Ask the interviewer, “What about my qualifications over qualifies me?” You need to find out specifically what their objection is so you can address it.

Some of the interviewer’s concerns may be:

  • you’ll cost too much to hire
  • you’ll get bored, frustrated, resentful
  • you’ll leave as soon as you find something better
  • you might take my job because you’re more qualified than me.

So, how do you respond to these objections?

You’ll want to address these concerns with stories of past experiences, demonstrable proof, and the return on investment the company can expect from hiring you.

If salary is the issue, you can explain that you are aware that the economy has caused significant changes in salaries and that you have adjusted your lifestyle so that you are able to accommodate these changes. Alternatively, if appropriate, you could explain that at this point in your career, you want to eliminate some of the stress and demands of your more recent senior positions.

If the position is similar to a position you held five or ten years ago and really loved, express your passion for that role and share a compelling story about how you delivered value to the company while in that role. Explain that you are looking to get back into a role that you loved and capitalized on your core skills.

If you have a history of longevity, loyalty and commitment to past employers, share that information so the interviewer feels secure that you won’t resign the moment you receive a better offer.

If you suspect that overqualified means too old, emphasize your reliability, commitment, work ethics, and ability to meet objectives in a smooth, efficient and timely fashion. Share stories that demonstrate the positive effect you bring to the workplace.

If you suspect that overqualified means you’re too senior or outdated, read,“How 55+ Year-Olds Can Compete in Today’s Job Market” to dispel this concern.

If it appears you would be working for a young, inexperienced manager, give an example of a like past experience and what you did to make the situation work. Also share stories that allude to your agility, flexibility and physical stamina.

Leverage your vast experience to demonstrate your ability to work well in groups and on teams, communicate across various functional groups in the organization, and avoid potential landmines and crises. Emphasize your ability to ramp up rapidly with little or no training and take on added responsibilities as they arise.

If the interviewer feels intimidated by your qualifications, reassure him that you are purely interested in supporting him, making him look good, and achieving the company’s objectives so that the company can thrive. If you are the type of executive who surrounds yourself with people who are smarter than you, share a story about some of the people you’ve hired that were smarter than you, how you leveraged that, and the outcomes.

You can also compliment the hiring manager on his outstanding qualities and strengths and share how you would enjoy blending your strengths with his to create a dynamic team. Perhaps some of your weaknesses are his strengths.

It’s best to address these concerns about being overqualified before they arise. To discover how to customize your resume so you won’t be considered overqualified before you have a chance to interview, read,“How To Improve Your Response Rate”.

If you’ve had the opportunity to interview and suspect that you are overqualified for the position, include additional stories and outcomes in your thank you letter. Demonstrate how you’ll be the perfect fit and deliver far more value than the cost of your compensation package.

*This article may be republished with written permission.  If you are interested in posting this article on your blog, please email me at Beverly@HarveyCareers.com.  I will respond within 2 business days with my required signature and credits.

Tough Interview Questions

As a senior executive, securing the position you want in today’s job market is going to take some extra preparation. Be ready to shine by showcasing your expertise to your potential employer by thoroughly preparing for interview questions. The following interview questions are intended to find the top candidate, so it’s important to consider your answers carefully ahead of time and be ready to explain them when necessary.

Let’s start with three common but tricky interview questions…

Why have you been unemployed so long? Clearly, this is not the right time to share your disappointment with the current state of the economy; that’s not what employers are interested in hearing. The key here is to answer honestly, while staying upbeat and positive. You might say, “I took this opportunity to re-evaluate the direction of my career path … and I have decided that this is the exact type of position I’m interested in … and this is the company I’d really like to be a part of.”

If you’ve interviewed with other companies, don’t be concerned about letting the recruiter know you have declined other opportunities offered to you in the interim that didn’t quite fit your criteria. Also let them know if you utilized this gap in your career to take a class, earn a certification, or volunteer your time to a worthy charity. Whatever your answer is, let them know in no uncertain terms that you are ready, willing and able to re-enter the corporate world.

Would you be willing to take a salary cut? Obviously, no one wants to take a salary cut, but the reality is that you may have to be prepared to take home less than you did previously. However, before you agree to any cut in salary, request additional information about the responsibilities of the position. Don’t forget to take into account the benefits package. Consider opting out of the perks you can live without in lieu of the salary cut. Regardless, don’t waste the recruiter’s time or your own. If you are not willing to accept a cut, make sure the recruiter knows that your salary requirements are firm.

You appear to be over-qualified for this position. What caused you to submit your resume for it? With the tough job market this is a common occurrence. If you’re truly interested emphasize your desire to establish an association with the company. You might say something like, “I assume that if I perform well in this position, new opportunities will become available that I may step into.” You might also say, “I’m here because I’ve researched your company and it’s innovative, cutting edge technology is appealing and something I want to be a part of.” Mention that since you are so well qualified, the company will realize a rapid return on investment and very little training will be required.

While you have no way of knowing exactly which questions you will be asked during your interview, preparing your responses ahead of time is extremely important. Think your answers through and then practice saying each until you are comfortable with it. Your well-thought-out response may make all the difference when it comes to obtaining the position you want.