– What have you heard about our company?
– Ahhh… You have been working in this industry for over 10 years and have offices in over 20 countries, employ about 3,000 people who speak 23 different languages. You are originally from the Netherlands and grew from a family office.
Have you ever wondered what such an answer says about you?
Yes, it is the minimum effort you put in before going to an interview. You probably took a glance at the website or read the company’s description that they put on top of the job posting. So, if you didn’t score high in any other part of the interview, they most likely won’t even call to say, “no, thank you.”
failure learning story
Before I present you with some tips on what you can do, I would like to tell you a true story; my true story, which taught me a lot.
When I graduated from university in Poland, I wanted to work in the Polish department of a major logistics company, as their Internal Auditor. I had knowledge fresh from school and felt like I could rule the world. I had in my hands a diploma for a Master’s of Economics, that was as warm and as fresh as the morning bread. They gave me two theory tests, which I scored over 90% on, and an English test, on which I got nearly 100%. I was doing amazing work answering each question, and felt like a fish in a pond. I was sure that I already had this job. But…
… the above question came up.
The HR lady asked with a smile, What have you heard about the company?
My answer was confident. I was sure that I was doing well as I gave them all the information that came straight from their own homepage. With each sentence that came out of my mouth, I saw the faces of my interviewers fading. Smiles became flat and official. The glow of theirs faces went away and I am sure that they even moved away from the table a bit. I knew that something had gone wrong, but I didn’t know what. I said everything that they said about themselves, all the available information on their website, which I listed off as if it were a child’s prayer.
That was the last question of the interview.
We shook hands, officially and with no chit-chat. I got a nice “goodbye” and “have a good afternoon.” But, in my bones, I felt that it would not be my pond, and with that last answer, I was now a stinking, belly-up fish floating in it.
On the way back home, I listened to the radio to relax, but I kept thinking that I could have done something more to get to know that company. A moment later, the radio news came on, along with my answer. The company I had just interviewed with had recently gone through a major internal fraud scandal that cost them several million dollars. That was also research that I had failed to do. They were looking for fresh blood to reinforce their Internal Audit and Risk team in order to minimize the risk of similar situations in the future. All of that, I should have known before I went to see them.
Guess what happened then?
I didn’t get that job.
I did, however, get a strong learning kick: I needed to carefully research any company that I apply and interview with.
What to do?
Of course, the home website is a must. It is a good source of information on what they do, where they are present, and how big the company and their turnover is. But, you should never stop there.
With Internet access everywhere and “Uncle Google” being able to answer any questions that you can imagine, my advice is USE IT. Google the company and check out the latest news about them. Verify information about them for the last 6-12 months. Look for anything that may be connected to the position you are applying for. Check out what they have recently been proud of and be proud of it, too, when you talk to them.
LinkedIn is your friend. There, not only can you find more details about the company (mergers, acquisitions, or changes), but you can also meet people who work for them, from all over the world. Maybe one of your long lost friends is working with them in this or another country. Ask them how they feel there, and would they recommend the place as a good work environment.
Your friends have friends who have cousins and friends who may work for that company. Ask around. Maybe someone can give you some more tips and information about them. Inside information is often more true than what is given by the HR Assistant or the lady from the recruitment agency.
With those four steps, you will be better prepared to answer the simple question from the top of today’s article. You will also have a better idea if this is the pond that you would like to get into and swim in for the next couple of years.