Researching the Organisation

  | James Innes

A number of common interview questions are designed to probe and assess your knowledge of the organisation to which you are applying. An interviewer will expect you to have done your homework. If you’re unprepared and unable to adequately answer these questions then your chances of success are going to be seriously diminished.

Just as a lack of knowledge of the job in question will count against you, a lack of knowledge of the organisation will betray a lack of effort on your part. How can a company be sure you really want this job – and that you’re really the right candidate for the job – if you know so little about the organisation? Statistically, approximately 80% of candidates at interview will have done no research on the organisation in advance. And while you may not be as ill-prepared as the candidate who, when asked what he could bring to the company, responded with ‘What is it that you do again?” your lack of research will quickly get shown up. He didn’t get the job and nor will you!’

Try to find out as much as you can about your prospective employer. The more information you have at your fingertips the better.

The Internet is normally an excellent research tool. Most organisations will have websites where you can read all about their background, structure, products/services, etc. Some will even list biographical details of key employees, maintain archives of press releases, provide downloadable financial accounts, etc. In the space of an hour you should be able to brief yourself thoroughly.

If your prospective employer has premises that are open to the public – for example a branch on the high street – then it may be worth your while taking the time to drop by and have a closer look. If you have applied to work for a major retail chain and  have never even set foot inside one of their shops you will be not only embarrassed but find your chances extremely damaged if an interviewer asks you about them.

Besides researching the organisation itself, you should also try to understand the environment in which it operates. Again, the Internet is a valuable resource. However, specialist trade journals can also yield a wealth of useful information. Questions you may want to answer include:

·       What industry or sector does the organisation operate within?

·       How is this industry or sector currently evolving?

·       Who are their major competitors within the industry or sector?

When planning and preparing your answers to potential interview questions, you should try to weave in little snippets of information about the organisation. Show the interviewer that you know what you’re talking about. It’s bound to impress them. Being properly briefed will also help you to feel much more confident in yourself. The more you know about your prospective employer the less nervous you’ll be when you turn up on their doorstep.

Not only should you research the organisation to perform well at interview, you owe it to yourself to know more about your prospective employer.

·       What does this organisation have to offer me?

·       Are they the right employer for me?

·       Will there be sufficient opportunities for career progression?

Thoroughly researching the organisation prior to your interview will give you the answers to some of these questions – and you can fill in any blanks during the interview itself.

If you’ve made an effort to research both the organisation and the environment in which it operates then you will immediately have a head start on other candidates – and you haven’t even got anywhere near the interview room. If you can then demonstrate during the interview itself that you have done, at least, some preliminary research into the organisation you will not only underline your interest, enthusiasm and motivation but likely impress the interviewer as well.

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