“Ask Not What the Company Can Do For You…”
From Career Services - September 14, 2012
…Ask What You Can Do For the Company!
I recently had the wonderful opportunity to sit on a search committee for a high level position, and as part of this process participated in interviewing multiple finalists. What surprised me most about this process was how 60% of the finalists failed in two major categories of the interview: doing their research in preparation for the interview and being able to answer the question “Why are you interested in this position and how does it relate to your career goals?” So…you may be asking yourself what does this have to do with me…well, the 60% of the finalists that failed these questions were no longer considered for the position based on their lack of preparation (even though they were very strong on paper). Do you want to end up in the same boat…I am guessing NO! Below I have outlined each of these two major categories and how to best approach them.
RESEARCHING THE EMPLOYER
In preparing for your interview, it is extremely important that you take the time to research the employer so that you are able to articulate why you are a good fit for the company. Find out what their mission/purpose is, the size and structure of the organization, what services/products they provide, any awards/recognition they’ve received, what they’ve been in the news for, what do others within or outside of the company say about them…what makes them unique compared to their competing companies. If you have done your research, this question gives you an opportunity to show initiative and demonstrate how your experience and qualifications match the company’s needs. Here are a few strategies you can use to research employers:
Talk to People
- Identify people who work for or have knowledge about the employer or industry. These could be people you meet at a career fair, family members, neighbors, or alumni contacts (The SPH Alumni Networking Database and LinkedIn can be very helpful with this).
- Set-up an informational interview (see our Informational Interviews tip sheet ). Ask professionals about their experience with the organization, what the organization values, and the company culture.
Research the Employer’s Website
- Look at the organization’s mission statement and values, the news media section, information about the management team, locations, history, and organization structure.
- Focus on what makes this employer unique within their competitive market. What about the company resonates with you the most.
- Many companies now have profiles on LinkedIn, the world’s largest online professional networking site. Check out company profiles to learn about the organization and find contacts to connect with, click on “Companies” and then “Search Companies.” You can select your search criteria including location, size, keyword, and industry type.
- Use the “Follow” tool to stay in tune with the latest news and company information.
- You can also use Company pages to reach out and network with professionals on the “inside”. Make sure you customize your connection invite (tip: review their individual profile and find information that you would like to learn more about – include this in your message). Do not use the template response!
- Another great resource in helping research employers is the University of Minnesota Libraries. Each library on-campus provides the opportunity for students to use multiple databases to search for and find information on almost every employer including, company information, industry information, market trends, statistical data, and much more. To access these databases, visit: https://www.lib.umn.edu/business.
Q: WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN THIS POSITION & HOW DOES IT ALIGN WITH YOUR CAREER GOALS?
One should expect that in every interview this type of question will be asked (in one form or another). So what should you do to prepare for this type of question and what is the best approach. Here are a few tips to help you out:
- First of all…make sure you understand this is a two-part question (so try to not forget one of the parts). If you do forget, you can certainly ask them to repeat the question.
- In order to answer the first part of the question (Why are you interested in this position), one MUST do their research of the employer in order to be successful. Employers like to ask this question to determine whether or not the applicant has researched their company and feels they are a good fit.
- Following your research of the employer, determine what you feel are the three main bridges between you and the employer. What stands out to you about the employ and/or the position? How does this position align with your qualifications and career goals? How would your past experiences and skills help make the employer successful? How do your passions fit with this position? Why is this the right cultural or environmental fit for you? Try and be detailed in your responses (don’t respond with “I am interested in this position because I enjoyed helping others”).
- Now comes the second part of the question – career goals. Start by reflecting on both your short- and long-term career goals (where do you see yourself in a few year? where do you see yourself 10-20 years down the road?). Employers like to ask this question to determine many things including, are you mature, are you goal or vision oriented, are you self-aware, and how long do you plan on staying with the new position. Start by talking about the job you are applying for and how it specifically fits your goals (try and relate them to the employer). The talk about longer-range goals (it is okay to keep them general and semi-tailored to the industry you are interviewing for).
By researching the employer, discovering the bridges between you and them, and reflecting on your career progression will help you avoid being the candidate that is not prepared no matter how good their resume is.