How to Get a Job, Part 1: Research & Understand Me

Yesterday I made a comment about how, as an employer, the qualities we look for in a good employee aren’t really super-complicated, and that I could probably boil it down to four things in a blog post if anyone was interested.

A lot of you said yeah, let’s hear it — so here it is today. I decided to change the format just a bit and focus on four strategies for the actual job *interview*, since I rarely do that here (usually I do it on my resume website, which perhaps I should merge with this one).

I’m writing this today from the backseat of a Chevy Malibu, driving across I-90 from my home in Rapid City, S.D. to Minneapolis, where I’m sitting on the judging of the National Student Advertising Competition. Usually I sit in the front seat on trips like this, but when I sit in the back seat, I can stretch my legs out and drive with my feet while I type on my laptop.

Yeah, so I've got woman-feet. Sue me.

Anyway, let’s get on it.

Let’s call it something snappy. Let’s call it: Four Killer Job Interview Secrets That’ll Make Any Boss Hire You (ok, it’s a little over the top, but it’s early and I have to keep you awake).

Now, a word of warning here: I wrote these tips thinking about students who are trying to find jobs at businesses — businesses who are, or at least attempting, to generate profits via the sale of goods and services. If you’re planning to be a teacher or a public servant or other government worker of some kind whose job is not to seek profit, then some of this will not apply to you (although much of it still will).

KILLER JOB INTERVIEW SECRET #1: Research and understand my business. If I’m looking to hire someone, I *really* would prefer that I not have to teach that person every single thing about the business I run and the industry I’m in. And in this economy, believe me, there are enough applicants for every job that I won’t have to.

Thanks to the Internet, it’s extremely easy to research the company with whom you’re interviewing. So easy, in fact, that it’s now an absolute requirement.

Honestly, if you show up to my office for an interview, plop down in a chair and ask, “So, what exactly is it you guys do around here?”, I’m going to push a button on my desk, the floor’s going to open up underneath
your chair and you will be gnawed on by angry Dobermans in a dank and windowless basement until you manage to send word of your captivity to rescuers via carrier pigeon.

You will deserve this.

There are multiple benefits of doing your research ahead of time. You learn a great deal about the company, which will make you seem smarter in your interview, because you actually now ARE smarter about the company than before you did your research.

You understand what your interviewer refers to when he tells you about the company’s achievements, objectives and challenges. And because you’ve already understood all this stuff for at least a couple of days before the interview, you’ve had more time to mull it over and perhaps come up with some questions of your own about the company. And have I mentioned how
outstanding that is?

It is indeed. In fact, that’s also a requirement — coming in with questions of your own. But there’s a catch here. There are two types of questions: questions about yourself, and questions about the company.


It’s natural and acceptable for you to ask some questions about how the job will affect you personally. What days would I be working? Do you provide health insurance? Stuff like that. But those better not be the only questions you ask. If they are, then that just tells me your sole concern is how this job fits YOUR needs, and that you’ll worry about whether you can meet the company’s needs later — if ever.

Which, I should point out, is certainly no CRIME — of course you’re concerned with your own situation, money, benefits, insurance, security, happiness, etc. You’d be crazy if you weren’t. But if you indicate that these things are ALL you’re concerned with, then an employer like me will not be inclined to hire YOU instead of the dozen other applicants who are
really trying to show me how they can help the company make more money.

The ideal candidate will understand my problems and help me fix them. Sometimes that’s tough to do, but hey, that’s why doing so will make you the IDEAL candidate.

If you can’t figure out anything about my needs and problems beforehand via social recon (more on that in a second), then just ask. Ask me about my problems as a business owner (or manager, or whoever’s interviewing you), and how you might be able to help me solve them.

I’m serious. Do you know how many times people I’ve interviewed have really take an interest in MY problems and asked me how they might be able to help? None. But man, I’ll celebrate the day they do.

Here’s something you won’t hear all the time, but it’s absolutely true: Interviews are MUTUAL; they’re not one-sided, or at least they shouldn’t be. Yes, everyone knows the employer is sizing you up as a potential employee, but you need to be sizing them up as a potential employer. You’re not a beggar on your knees, yearning for this employer’s scraps; you’re evaluating
the boss and deciding whether you want to work with him or not, just like he’s doing to you.

That’s as it should be, and when employers see you doing that, they know they’re dealing with a more sophisticated applicant than the average green college grad who’s desperate for any paycheck he can get. That in itself makes you a candidate worthy of more serious consideration.

So how do you show the employer that you’re a force to contend with and not some shivering ninny-pants? Come prepared with questions, and ask all of them. At some point, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions for her. When she does, pull out a piece of paper, get comfortable in your seat and start asking. Don’t take notes on the answers; just listen.

I’ll give you some verbatim samples. Seriously, ask these questions at your next job interview and see if you don’t wake up the interviewer with a quickness:

“What challenges are you having right now, what keeps you up at night?”

“How can someone like me come in and start taking steps to resolve those issues?”

Presumably they answer you with some specifics, and that’s when you say something like:

“I definitely feel like I can step in pretty quickly and take some of that load off you without much ramp-up time” or “Great, because that’s really something I consider to be one of my strengths already, so I could start helping you out immediately in that regard.”

(Whether either of those statements are true or not, I’d say them anyway; if you really want the job and they offer it to you, you’ll have a little time to get up to speed on whatever skill you just promised before you start the actual job. 🙂

We’re getting way too wordy here already to go into the other 3 things, so I’ll do them on Friday, Monday and Tuesday. You can see the pattern here, though: research and preparation greatly increase your chances of doing well in an interview.

Research is something everyone can do, but very few applicants do enough.
Back tomorrow with Item 2. If you’re headed to the NSAC in Minneapolis, I’ll see you there in person on Saturday. If not — same time, same place, tomorrow. Have a good night!


11 thoughts on “How to Get a Job, Part 1: Research & Understand Me”

  1. Pegty Beasleed

    The whole interviewing episode should be reconstructed, or unemployment rates will continue to go up and homeless people will continue to search for food in the garbage bin. I know what you’re thinking ,”let the goverment take care of poor people ” while employers hire the right one. Let’s face it everyone has to eat. Isn’t that the reason we really need to work anyway. If empolyers don’t change their hiring process, the world will continue to go to hell in a hand basket.

  2. I have done this in the past for interviews and everytime I have done it I have gotten the job. Many times I edged out candidates that were more qualified but did no research.

  3. I am saving all of the e-mails I get from you guys, so I can read them later. Every time my dad installs new electronic junk on his computer at home, I have more difficulties doing the things I am doing to get a scholarship. I think it may be because one of the scholarships I applied for, on your competitor’s web site, wanted me to write a letter for them to submit to my congressman. My congressman is Mike Pence. I think I addressed his honor as Mike Spence. I still look for new scholarships to apply for on fastweb. I really like writing essays. I am sorry my dad’s computer at home has been rigged. It is too hard to write a good essay at the public library.

  4. @ Pegty

    You’re absolutely right. Thanks so much for writing that! If I had your ability to sum things up so concisely I’d want to run for some highly influential position. Not to peer pressure you or anything, but have you ever considered Public Administration? We need more realists like you setting the policies. I love your reconstructive attitude. You sound like a productive and open-minded human being! <3

  5. Pegty, you’re kidding, right? Are you suggesting that employers hire dirty, smelly, uneducated, and probably mentally ill/drug and/or alcohol addicted, homeless people over educated, well groomed, qualified applicants? (mind you, I’ve done plenty of research on homelessness, and I know that the majority of homeless people are mentally ill or drug and/or alcohol addicted)

  6. malik abdur rehman

    as i told you before i have an experiance of 2 years with study .
    So , this is not a difficult task for me .
    I have done this in the past for interviews and everytime I have done it . I have gotten the job. Many times I edged out candidates that were more qualified but did no research.

  7. Thanks so much for this Judge Josh. Although it is something my parents have told me before, it’s much easier to understand now that I see the structure and examples. I plan to use these tips in all of my future interviews. Thanks!

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