During a job interview, your objective is to sell yourself. You need to be able to convey how you can help solve the problems the company is having. Too often we focus on where the company/interviewer is now and answer questions that address their current state.
As the great hockey star Wayne Gretsky once said, he was successful partly because he "always skated to where the puck is going to be, not where it is."
How as a candidate can you best sell yourself to get the job? The key is to focus on where the company/interviewer wants to be – where they need to be. You want to provide solutions that enable them to get there, or reduce the risk as they pursue their objectives. You need to detail your past accomplishments and how you can help them achieve their goals. How do you accomplish this? By doing your research before the interview and framing your questions and answers so the focus is on "where the puck is going to be, not where it is."
Company research shouldn't just come from a Bing or Google search. You should look at a variety of sources and understand how to use the information you find on that company to your benefit.
- Visit the company Web site and download a copy of the annual report.
- Go to Hoovers.com, a company industry research center with all kinds of comprehensive research.
- Go on LinkedIn and see if you are connected to anyone who has worked or currently works at the company. Call them and ask some questions.
As a candidate you will present a greater value if you can communicate how you can help the company get to where they want to be and understand the goals and aspirations of the people you are meeting with. Don't do a ton of research and then showcase that information. I know plenty of people who bombed the interview because they went into the interview questioning decisions the company made in a negative way. "Why did you do X in your last merger?" Instead, use the information you gather to help you frame your answers and ask smart questions.
This summer I had an interview with an HR Executive who had been hired to "clean up a mess." She was consumed with all the problems she had to fix and there seemed to be so much wrong and not enough time or money to fix them. I had done some research on the organization and knew they had recently acquired another company and their HR organization and systems were a mess.
I asked the question, "Where do you want to be in 18 months?" She started to talk about where the organization should be and she had very clear ideas about systems integrations, organization restructure and process improvements. I sat quietly, taking notes, every once in a while asking a probing question. I then discussed how I had solved similar issues in my last position and gave specific examples of how I helped turn around the staffing organization. I was able to clearly demonstrate how I could help her get to where she wanted to be in 18 months, and that I had the skills and experience to be at that place with her.
So, during your next interview, be prepared and ask about the goals and aspirations of the company. Show the interviewer that you can skate to where their puck is, and you will find success.