Why did you NOT get that job offer?  Why did someone else get the job? How can you do a better job at distinguishing yourself from other candidates? How can you prepare better for job interviews? In today’s helpful nugget I explain two seldom-used strategies, hence “secrets”, that can tip the interviewing scales into your favor.

SECRET NUMBER ONE is to DISCOVER then wrap your answers around the company’s reasons for running the job ad and interviewing. It helps to know which of the 5 common  reasons why a company runs a job ad and interviews:

  1. Vacancy that the company has to fill. This happens in the majority of cases. Could be a promotion, firing, or the person left for a better job in another company. Often there is a time sensitivity to this motive since the longer the vacancy lasts the more a company’s productivity suffers.
  2. Expanding and is adding to the head count.
  3. Direction change / strategic change.
  4. Talent pool. The company is building a pool of talent and wants you in the “wings” waiting, so created a job to test you out while waiting to re-assign you in a year or two, similar to an aircraft flying in a holding pattern.
  5. Chess piece is needed. The company wants to move someone currently in that job to another job, like “chess pieces” on a chessboard, but first must hire someone.

What good is it to know which of these applies to this job opportunity? You can more effectively answer interviewer questions. It may be appropriate, if your chemistry with the interviewer permits, to ask why this job opportunity is being offered.  Knowing that answer can help you to shape all other answers to better position your qualifications.

SECRET NUMBER TWO and likely the MOST IMPORTANT SECRET is to ask smart, well-informed, questions.  This is easier said then done.  There is an art to knowing enough about the company to be able to ask useful questions. Before we go there, let me caution that this is not to be thought of as a superficial process merely to impress the interviewer. The paradox of trying to impress is that you will fail. Instead, use this process to genuinely understand the company and ask genuine questions. If your genuine sincerity comes through, you will impress. Here we go…

Though every writer tells you to learn something about the company prior to your interview, the competitive edge comes from what and how you learn. With each of the points below, make notes and always ask yourself, “After reading/studying this, what information would I want to learn from the interviewer to give me a running start in my first few days on the job?”

  1. Read the website. Obvious. Done by many. There you will find products, company mission statement, career opportunities and much more. Consider this a mandatory first step.
  2. Mission statements usually are more fiction than fact. Still, it is the company’s “public face”.  Its story and a company will try to find examples that adhere to the mission statement to hold up to the public. What do you do or offer that aligns with their missions statement?
  3. Products. It is essential you study about the types of products the company sells or services it provides. Who buys it? How is it sold? What does the company emphasize in its ads about strengths of its offering? Where are those products available and how does someone buy them?
  4. COMPETITION…competition…competition. Do a search for equivalent products. You will likely learn as much or more by studying the competition. What makes them different, special, inferior, superior? Which supplier commands the largest share, the “Gorilla” position? Why should a customer buy this company’s and not the competition? [Use my search box for “gorilla” to learn more.]
  5. Read the press releases for AT LEAST the past 6 months. There you find issues, statements by the brass which are designed to influence investors, expansion and contraction plans, and so on.
  6. Strip out the chaff from the job description and focus on the real qualities and qualifications. Go to a search engine and read many job descriptions by that same title/job and try to get a broad interpretation of needs, skills, challenges beyond what your specific job description is calling for. Think of job descriptions as an opinion rather than an accurate formula. It’s at best an approximation. Inside companies, managers often are hard-pressed to describe the ideal candidate so copy and paste from other companies’ ads and from each others’ past job descriptions to arrive at something that will not embarrass the writer. And, manager’s are often under time pressures from other more “more important” job responsibilities and issues so often they treat the job description as a necessary evil and work to get it done in a way to optimize the effort and description rather than aiming at precision.
  7. Read the INVESTORS’ CORNER, or the equivalent, if a public company, meaning, if the company has issued equities, (stocks, shares). There you will find financial statements and financial filings with SEC or EDGAR.
  8. Media Kit. This is where you find press releases, articles that have been published, and even photos of their best products.

Let’s now talk more about point #7,  “Investor’s corner”, the most important place on the company website. Here you find a “gold” mine of information for investors:

  • Management pay big bucks to financial experts to massage numbers, within the legal limits of proper reporting, to make their numbers look good. Your first realization is that the numbers may not present a true picture of the state of the company, but does present a useful approximation.
  • Rather than try to dissect every number, look for TRENDS. Turn to the history pages and determine if sales, (revenue), is going up or down over the years, especially look at the expense and costs line, then the net income, (also called profit), lines. Try to understand what is driving those trends.
  • Financial Statement Footnotes are used to clarify the numbers and to explain the reasons behind those numbers. Read all the footnotes.
  • Financial Statement’s Management’s Discussion and Analysis. This is where the top-dog takes time to talk about the most important influences on the company, financial results, and strategies that influenced the numbers presentation in what follows in the financial statements.
  • Presentations are very useful. In those presentations by upper management, or the CEO, you learn about plans, problems, challenges, data about the company that the top brass think is important enough to direct attention of big money managers and institutions.

TWO final tips.

  1. Don’t try to impress the interviewer with your intelligence quotient, (IQ),  by asking lengthy, complex, compound questions. Try to keep your questions structured in simple, easily-comprehended terms. Yet, try to avoid asking a question that can simply be answered “Yes” or “No”.
  2. Don’t wrestle the interview away from the interviewer. So wait until an appropriate time or if you are asked if you have any questions. Then, only ask a few at a time.