As if it’s not enough that you have to answer a load of tough questions at your next interview – and devise some good questions of your own to ask – you now find out you have to ask a few questions before even setting foot on the prospective employer’s premises!
No matter how frustrating it may seem, I can’t apologize for putting you through this exercise. Walking into an interview room without having asked and received answers to certain critical questions about the employer and role would leave you woefully underprepared for the interview itself.
Simply put: Asking questions before the interview is just something you have to do, if you want to land a job.
Most candidates do walk into the interview unprepared. Often, they think “researching an employer” means nothing more than skimming the company’s website. But what can you really learn by doing that, aside from general information about what the company does?
It’s better to view employer research as an investigative exercise. Don’t aimlessly wander the Web; instead, make a list of pertinent and probing questions and use whatever means necessary – the company’s website and social media presence, correspondence with current and former employees, etc. – to get answers to said questions.
Don’t know where to start? Here are four great questions you should set out to answer before you walk into your next interview:
1. Where Are the Weaknesses in My Application?
This is perhaps the most crucial question to which you need an answer. Employers will undoubtedly probe your areas of weakness during the interview, and you’ll need to be ready to allay any concerns they may have.
You can determine your weaknesses by one of two methods. If you are working with a recruiter, just ask them what they think. A good recruiter should have an excellent understanding of both your competition for the role and the employer’s needs.
In addition to or instead of this, you can also ask the employer itself for a detailed job description. If there’s one online, great! If the job posting is a little vague, see if a company contact can’t give you something with more meat. Once you have a in-depth description of the role, you can see how your resume stacks up.
2. Are There Any Skills That Make Me Stand Out From the Crowd?
If you want to be invaluable to this potential employer, you need to identify the skills you possess that other candidates don’t. Look at the employer’s recent and past job postings online and monitor the industry in general. If you pay close attention, you may find clues about what sorts of skills the company and its industry are struggling to find. If you have any of these skills, you can then play them up throughout your candidacy.
3. Will I Feel Comfortable in This Working Environment?
There’s no better feeling than walking into a company on the first day and feeling right at home. Similarly, there’s no worse feeling than walking in and feeling that you’ve made a mistake of epic proportions.
That’s why it’s crucial to find out whether a company’s culture suits you before you take a job there. You can explore the employer’s culture through career sites, company LinkedIn pages, and online reviews like the kind you’d find on Glassdoor. You may also want to try reaching out to current or former employees via LinkedIn to see how they would describe the culture.
(A quick note on Glassdoor, before we proceed: It’s definitely a useful resource, but you shouldn’t put total faith in it. Research shows that Glassdoor reviews are not always representative of the feelings of the majority of employees at a company. Pay attention to what you read on Glassdoor, but don’t rely on it exclusively.)
If, during your research, you find anything concerning about the company culture, use the interview to ask some subtle questions and find out what’s going on.
4. What Questions Are They Likely to Ask You During the Interview?
You can predict some of the questions the interviewer might ask by:
- identifying critical skills mentioned in the job description;
- reading up on the company’s values and mission;
- and researching the industry and any skill shortages that may exist within it.
There is a good chance that you’ll face questions regarding these topics. If you do your research ahead of time, you can prepare some powerful responses.
It’s much better to adopt a targeted and investigative approach to employer research than it is to take the passive approach that so many candidates fall into. You’ll be far more motivated and engaged in the process, and you’ll end up with much more useful information. The more active you are in your research, the more of an edge you’ll have when it comes time for the interview.