How many times have you come out of an interview feeling that everything has gone well, only to discover that you didn’t get the job? If you are like most people it has happened to you several times, and each time it happens feels disheartening and perplexing.
Of course there are many reasons why you may not be offered the job after an interview. Often these are quite benign, you may have been up against an equally strong candidate and you were just unlucky that they chose the other. Or you may have come across as too strong, the interviewer might have felt that your experience risked making you too difficult to manage. But there is another very common reason why you can have what feels like a good interview and yet not get the job. It comes down to you not having demonstrated sufficient interest in the company you are being interviewed for.
A job interview is not just about whether or not you can do the job. What is equally important, if not more so, is whether you have demonstrated sufficient interest in, and enough commitment to, the company you are being interviewed for.
This is not just a question of your liking what the company does or feeling that it would be an enjoyable place to work in. To demonstrate commitment to a company you need to understand as much as you possible can about them. Not just about what they do, but about what is currently going on in the company, what their key challenges and issues are and how you can help them to meet them. This means, in other words, that you have to carry out detailed research on the company, and to show that you have carried out that research.
You can start your research by looking at their published information. This includes studying their website thoroughly, but goes far beyond that. If they are a public company they will have produced annual reports for their shareholders. You can usually download these from the Investors section of their website; read them carefully and try to familiarise yourself with progress and changes at the company over recent years. Look particularly at the financial information; is there anything there which suggests the company is enjoying a boom, or experiencing a crisis? If so, think of some intelligent but non-threatening questions to ask. Demonstrate that you are taking an interest in the company’s fortunes, without appearing critical of any problems they may have.
After you have digested the website and annual reports, check out any news that may have been published recently on the company. You will be expected to know if the company has been in the headlines recently, so make sure you are familiar with any stories that you come across, and that you understand the issues which lie behind them.
But the most important piece of research that you can do before an interview is to talk to people who work, or have worked there. Find out from them what the company is really like, what they expect from their employees and what the atmosphere and culture is like there. At the interview show your enthusiasm for the positive things you have heard and, if necessary and appropriate, challenge some of the negatives. This is of course a delicate thing to do, if you hear negatives about the company you do not want to come across as critical, but at the same time you need to show that you are aware of any challenges you may face if you work there.
Researching a company properly is a huge task. But it is also an essential preparatory exercise before an interview. Don’t overlook it; good research may well make the difference between you being offered the job or not.