Tag Archives: research

Nailing the interview process, part 3: research, research, research

You’ve heard it over and over again: you need to do your research before an interview. Why? Because:

  • When you do your research, you’re more prepared.
  • When you’re more prepared, you’ll be more confident.
  • When you’re more confident, you’ll do better.

Research

The last thing you want to do is wing it in an interview. You’ll fail, especially if the interviewer is good at their job.

What, exactly, should you research before your interview? Here are four areas the interview will likely cover:

1. The Position

This should go without saying. Most of the questions an interviewer poses will address the position, so you’d better know your stuff.

The most obvious resource here is the job description. A well-written job description should provide valuable information like the skills and experience required for the position. Descriptions will often list these things in order of priority.

Go to the “Required Experience” section of the job description first. Note the list of skills and experience and the order of priority.

You can take your research on the position further by talking with someone who works in the company to which you’re applying. Ask if there are any additional requirements not listed in the job description. You may uncover key requirements that were not mentioned in the listing.

2. The Company

One of the top pet peeves of interviewers is when candidates do not know much about the company. Interviewers want to know you’ve taken the time to research the company, and they want to know you’re truly interested in working for the organization.

The very least you can do is visit the company website. Most company websites will feature an “About Us” page. Read this first. The site will also likely have a “Products” and/or “Services” page. Read these, too. If the company is global, it may list its locations and the functions each performs.

The problem with company websites, however, is that the content they feature is all marketing content, engineered to paint the organization in the most positive light possible.

You’ll never get the whole truth about a company through its website, unless the company is publicly traded. In this case, the website will have annual reports that will reveal more objective information on financials, shareholder information, etc.

It’s a good idea to reach out to people you know in the company for more information about it, particularly the culture.

3. The Industry and Competition

Top candidates will know about the industry in which the company operates. This is information you can gather from labor market research websites, such as Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, and O*Net OnLine. You can always turn to Google, too.

With sites like these, you can gather information on occupations, salaries, the skills employers are looking for, and available positions in your area. Glassdoor is a particular favorite among job seekers, as it features employees’ reviews of their own employers.

You can also check out SpyFu to learn about how an employer advertises and its intended audience. Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are also useful as well.

As mentioned earlier, public companies are required to share press releases and annual reports. Read the documents of your potential employer’s competitors. If you can cite your desired company’s competition’s statistics, you will impress the interviewer very much.

Once again, it’s important to reach out to people who work in the company to which you’re applying. They will probably have a good sense of who the relevant competitors are based on the department you’re targeting.

4. The Interviewers

Finally, you’ll want to research the people who will be interviewing you.

If you have the names of said people ahead of time, the best tool is LinkedIn. Even if you don’t know the names of the people who will interview you, you can use the site’s “Companies” feature to find people in various departments.

For example, if you are applying for an accountant position, search the company using the keywords “accountant, manager.” You will see the company’s accountant managers.

Read through their profiles to see what you have in common with them. It could be that you attended the same school, you enjoy the same activities, you volunteered at similar organizations, or something else. During the interview, try to talk about what you learned about the interviewers when given the opportunity.

Not to sound like a broken record, but you really should reach out to someone you might know in the company to ask about the person or people who will be interviewing you. They may be able to give you great information about your interviewer’s likes and dislikes.


Researching the mentioned areas will put you an advantage over the other candidates. to show off your research, mention it explicitly. Begin sentences by saying, “While I was researching the competition, I learned …”.

Remember, when you’re prepared, you’ll do well in the interview.

Check back next week, when I’ll be talking about the importance of practicing for your interview.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com
Photo: Flickr, Rahul Panja
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6 reasons why you landed your job

Searching for a job was scary and one of the most difficult times in your life. But you made it. You landed the job you wanted. Your job search took longer than you would have liked, but you persevered for six months.

Success

When you think about what led you through your journey and to this new opportunity, you can pinpoint 6 distinct reasons:

1. You demonstrated emotional intelligence (EQ).There were times when you felt like throwing in the towel. You felt like staying in bed dreading the days ahead. Your feelings of despondency were unseen by others, save for loved ones and your closest friends.

When you were networking in your community, attending networking groups three times a week, and taking workshops at the local career center, you showed a confident demeanor. You were positive and demonstrated a willingness to help others. Despite negative thoughts, you did your best to help yourself and others.

Read 12 ways to show emotional intelligence.

2. You developed a target company list. Taking the advice of your career advisor, you made a list of companies for which you wanted to work. She told you to spend time researching your target companies and contacting people for networking meetings before jobs were advertised.

You left each networking meeting with different people to contact. You had the sense that one person, a VP of Marketing and Sales, had an interest in you. He led you to the door saying, “We might be in touch with you real soon.” But you didn’t rely on this one occurrence.

You continued to build your target company list and ask for networking meetings. You were spending less time applying for jobs online and more time meeting with quality connections. You were optimistic. You felt productive.

Read 4 components of job-search networking emails.

3. You networked the proper way. At networking events you were attentive to others, while also willing to ask for help. Many people think only of their situation, not of helping others. Not you. You kept your eyes open for opportunities for your networking companions.

When people ask you for leads at companies of interest, you gave them the names of hiring managers in various departments. You became known as the “Connector.” Weeks later, you were happy to learn of one of your networking companions landing a position at a company, based on one of your leads.

You also networked in your community. Told everyone you knew that you were looking for a job and asked them to keep their ears to the pavement. Who would have known that your neighbor across the street would be the reason you landed your job?

He worked at one of your target companies and knew the VP of marketing and would deliver your résumé to him. Put in a good word. You were asked to come in to have a few discussions.

Read 10 ways to make a better impression while networking

4. You wrote killer résumés. Yes, plural. Because you tailored as many of your résumés as possible to each job, knowing that every employer has different needs. A one-fits-all résumé doesn’t work. In addition, you eliminated fluff from your Performance Profile. It’s better to show, rather than tell.

Most importantly, you packed a punch in your Experience section by listing accomplishment statements with quantified results. Results like, “Increased productivity by 80%” sounds better than simply, “Increased productivity.”

Using your network was key in getting your résumé into the hands of the hiring managers, such as the time your neighbor delivered your value-packed résumé to that hiring manager.

Read 8 reasons why hiring authorities will read your résumé.

5. You nailed the interviews at one of your target companies. There were five interviews for the job your neighbor led you to; two telephone, two group, and a one-on-one. You were prepared for each interview, having researched the company, the position, their competition, even the interviewers.

You used LinkedIn to discover who the interviewers were. One was a youth soccer coach, like you. Another had gone to your alma mater. And another was a veteran, so you were sure to thank her for her service. That went over very well.

After each interview you sent unique follow-up notes to every interviewer, ensuring that you mentioned a specific point of interest made by each one. You even sent a thank-you note to the receptionist. Smart move.

After 6 months, you received an email from the VP of marketing telling you they were offering you the position of marketing manager and were also exceeding your salary requirement.

Read 6 ways to interact with one of the most important people in the interview process 

6. Your work was not complete. You didn’t forget the people who helped you along the way, such as the person who helped you revise your résumé, the people with whom you formally networked, and certainly your neighbor who led you to your new job. They deserved thanks.

In the true spirit of networking, there were people who you could help in a more meaningful way, such as Sydney from your networking group who was looking for an engineering position.

There was a mechanical engineer position opening in your new company. You mentioned the position to Sydney and gave her a good word. Wouldn’t you know; you changed Sydney’s life for the better.

Read 6 topics to include in your thank-you notes.

I’ve heard many stories from my clients who have similar plots to this one. Their job search wasn’t easy. Their landing was well deserved. But they had to display EQ, do their research, help others, and be willing to help themselves. If you are dedicated to do the same, your job search will be shorter.

A portion of this post appeared in Recruiter.com

Photo: Flickr Marc Accetta

 

Are you wasting your summer? 5 steps to landing your next job.

Job seekers often ask me if employers are hiring during the summer. My answer to them is, “Sure.” In fact, a career center near me is in the process of filling three positions. But on a whole, employers are not hiring as much as in late fall.

woman summer

A recent article in Monster.com supports this claim:

“Major hiring initiatives may follow close on the heels of the holidays and summer. ‘The big months for hiring are January and February, and late September and October,’ says [Scott] Testa. ‘Job seekers who make contact right at the start of these cycles have the best chance of being hired.'”

Consider this: while some job seekers are taking the summer off for vacation, you’ll have a head start on your job search. There will be less competition. 

So, is summer the time to take vacation? Heck no. Summer is perhaps the best time to find the job you really want. No, you won’t find it on Monster.com or any other job board. You’ll find it by setting the foundation for the fall.

This will entail conducting your labor market research, and then networking, networking, and networking. Follow these five steps for success.

1. Coming up with a target company list is the first step toward landing your ideal job. These are the companies you’re dying to work for. This is where your research begins.

I tell job seekers that they should have a list of 10-15 companies for which they’d like to work. Many don’t; they have a hard time naming five. Yet if some of them were asked to name their top five restaurants, they could.

2. Once you’ve identified the companies you’d like to research, you should dedicate a great deal of your computer time visiting their websites…and less time applying online.

Study what’s happening at your chosen companies. Read website pages on their products or services, their press releases (if they’re a public company), biographies of the companies’ principals, and any other information that will increase your knowledge of said companies.

Summer vacation

Your goal is to eventually make contact and meet with people at your target companies, so it makes sense to know about the companies before you approach them. This research will also help when composing your résumé and cover letter and, of course, it will come into play at the interview.

3. If you don’t have familiar contacts at your favorite companies, you’ll have to identify new potential contacts. You might be successful ferreting them out by calling reception, but chances are you’ll have more success by utilizing LinkedIn’s Companies feature.

Most likely you’ll have outside first degree connections who know the people you’d like to contact—connections who could send an introduction to someone in the company. My advice is to start with someone at your level and work your way up to decision makers.

Let us not forget the power of personal, or face-to-face, networking. Reaching out to job seekers or people currently working can yield great advice and leads to contacts. Your superficial connections (neighbors, friends, etc.) may know people you’d like to contact.

4. Begin initial contact with those who you’ve identified as viable contacts. Your job is to become known by your desired companies.

Will you be as well known as internal candidates? Probably not, but you’ll be better known than the schmucks who apply cold for the advertised positions—the 20%-30% of the jobs that thousands of other people are applying for.

Let’s face it; going through the process of applying for jobs on the major job boards is like being one of many casting your fishing line into a pool where one job exists. Instead spend your time on researching the companies so you’ll have illuminating questions to ask.

So, how do you draw the attention of potential employers?

  • Contact someone via the phone and ask for an informational meeting. People these days are often busy and, despite wanting to speak with you, don’t have a great deal of time to sit with you and provide you with the information you seek. So don’t be disappointed if you don’t get an enthusiastic reply.
  • Send a trusted and one-of-the-best-kept-secrets networking email. This approach is similar to making a cold call to someone at a company, but it is in writing and, therefore, less bold. Employers are more likely to read a networking email than return your call. Unfortunately, it’s a slower process and doesn’t yield immediate results.
  • A meeting with the hiring manager or even someone who does what you do continues your research efforts. You will ask illuminating questions that provoke informative conversation and ideally leads to meetings with other people in the company. At this point you’re not asking for job, you’re asking for advice and information.

5. Sealing the deal. Follow up with everyone you contacted at your selected companies. Send a brief e-mail or hard copy letter asking if they received your résumé or initial introductory letter. If you’ve met with them, thank them for their time and valuable information they’ve imparted.

Send your inquiry no later than a week after first contact. For encouragement, I suggest you read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It’s probably the most recommended books on networking in history and for good reason.

Ferrazzi goes into great detail about his methods of building relationships through networking, while emphasizing the importance of constantly following up with valued contacts.


So, you can take the summer off and go on vacation, or you can get the leg up on other job seekers and be proactive in your job search. Look at it this way: although employers may not be hiring as rapidly as they will in the fall, you’re investing in a job of your choice.

Photo, Flickr, Andrea Cisneros

Photo: Flickr, Adam Smok

Job seekers, 5 steps to connecting with people at your desired companies

I tell job seekers in all my workshops that research is key to their job search. I’m being redundant, but it’s true and worth repeating. The time you put into research will be a tremendous return on investment.

Job Interview

Many believe that the first thing they must do after losing their job is updating their résumé. Having done this, they’re now prepared to respond to positions posted online. Good plan? Not really.

It would be far better to be proactive in your job search by approaching companies for which you’d like to work. To do this, will require research. Here are five steps to take when making connections at your desired companies.

1. Discovering which companies are growing the fastest is the start of the job search. This should be your first step, yet so many people don’t realize how valuable this information is.

I tell job seekers that they should have a list of 10-15 companies for which they’d like to work. Many don’t; they have a hard time naming five. Yet if some of them were asked to name their top five restaurants, they could.

2. Once you’ve located the companies you’d like to researched and decided which companies are the ones for which you would like to work, you should dedicate a great deal of your computer time visiting their websites.

Study what’s happening at your chosen companies. Read pages on their products or services, their press releases (if they’re a public company), biographies of the companies’ principals, and any other information that will increase your knowledge of said companies.

Your goal is to eventually make contact and meet with people at your target companies, so it makes sense to know about the companies before you engage in conversation. This research will also help when composing your résumé and cover letter and, of course, it will come into play at the interview.

3. If you don’t have familiar contacts at your favorite companies, you’ll have to identify new potential contacts. You might be successful ferreting them out by calling reception, but chances are you’ll have more success by utilizing LinkedIn’s Companies feature.

LinkedIn’s Companies feature is something job seekers have used to successfully make contact with people at their desired companies. Again, research is key in identifying the proper people with whom to speak.

Most likely you’ll have first degree connections that know the people you’d like to contact—connections who could send an introduction to someone in the company. These connections could include hiring managers, Human Resources, and directors of departments.

Let us not forget the power of personal, or face-to-face, networking. Reaching out to job seekers or people currently working can yield great advice and leads to contacts. Your superficial connections (neighbors, friends, etc.) may know people you’d like to contact.

4. Begin initial contact with those who you’ve identified as viable contacts. Your job is to become known to your desired companies. Will you be as well known as internal candidates?

Probably not, but you’ll be better known than the schmucks who apply cold for the advertised positions—the 20%-30% of the jobs that thousands of other people are applying for.

Let’s face it; going through the process of applying for jobs on the major job boards is like being one of many casting your fishing line into a pool where one job exists. Instead spend your time on researching the companies so you’ll have illuminating questions to ask.

So, how do you draw the attention of potential employers?

  • Send your résumé directly to someone you’ve contacted at the company and ask that it be considered or passed on to other companies. The risk in doing this is to be considered presumptuous. As well, your résumé will most likely be generic and unable to address the employer’s immediate needs.
  • Contact someone via the phone and ask for an informational meeting. This is more acceptable than sending your résumé, for the reason mentioned above, but takes a great deal of courage. People these days are often busy and, despite wanting to speak with you, don’t have a great deal of time to sit with you and provide you with the information you seek. So don’t be disappointed if you don’t get an enthusiastic reply.
  • Send a trusted and one-of-the-best-kept-secrets networking email. The approach letter is similar to making a cold call to someone at a company, but it is in writing and, therefore, less bold. Employers are more likely to read a networking email than return your call. Unfortunately, it’s a slower process and doesn’t yield immediate results.
  • A meeting with the hiring manager or even someone who does what you do continues your research efforts. You will ask illuminating questions that provoke informative conversation and ideally leads to meetings with other people in the company. At this point you’re not asking for job, you’re asking for advice and information.

5. Sealing the deal. Follow up with everyone you contacted at your selected companies. Send a brief e-mail or hard copy letter asking if they received your résumé or initial introductory letter. If you’ve met with them, thank them for their time and valuable information they’ve imparted.

Send your inquiry no later than a week after first contact. For encouragement, I suggest you read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It’s probably the most recommended books on networking in history and for good reason.

Ferrazzi goes into great detail about his methods of building relationships through networking, while emphasizing the importance of constantly following up with valued contacts.


People in the career development industry never said finding a rewarding job is easy. In fact, the harder you work and more proactive you are, the greater the rewards will be. Take your job search into your own hands and don’t rely on coming across your ideal job on Monster.com, Dice.com, or any of the other overused job boards.

Your job is to secure an interview leading to the final prize, a job offer. But your researching skills are essential to finding the companies for which you’d like to work, identifying contacts within those companies, and getting yourself well-known by important decision makers.

 

10 ways to beat the interview nerves

Nervous candidate

This post appeared on recruiter.com.

Have you been so nervous during an interview that you temporarily forget your name or what your previous title was? It happens. Have you been so nervous that the cup of water you’re holding is shaking beyond control? Sure, it happens. Or have you been so nervous that you can’t shut up? Oh yeah, it happens.

The fact is most people are nervous during an interview; some worse than the aforementioned examples. But how can you keep your nervousness under control?

First you must understand that it’s natural to be nervous before and during an interview; that nervousness can overcome anyone, even the most qualified people for the job. But even if you are qualified, expect some butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, and dry mouth.

As a nervous job candidate, the best you can do is accept your nerves and try to manage them. To do this, it’s important to do the following before and during the interview.

Before the interview

1. Be as prepared as you can. You’ve heard this many times; and if you’re smart you’ve done something about it. You’ve researched the job so you can recite the responsibilities. The same goes for the company. You must go beyond the cursory reading of the job description and company website. Talk with someone at the company, if possible. Also, if you’re on LinkedIn peruse the profiles of the people who will be interviewing you.

2. Practice. Professional athletes don’t go on the baseball field or soccer pitch without practicing in between games. My valued LinkedIn connection and executive coach, Greg Johnson, reminds us that mock interviews or even practicing answering questions in front of the mirror can help reduce the nerves, as it prepares you for the real thing.

3. Request a pep talk. I know, you’re stoic and don’t need others’ help. Everyone can use help for those who are willing to give it. One of my favorite things to do is pump people up before they interview the next day. Simply telling them that the interview is theirs because they’ve prepared for the meeting, they’ve practice, and they’ll be rested for the interview.

4. Get a good night’s sleep. As basic as this seems, being well rested is essential to doing well. Remember the days when you crammed for high school or college exams, trying to mash all that information into one night? Didn’t work too well, did it? Same goes for the interview—do your research over two, three, for days; as it’s easier to remember the information.

5. Take a walk. The day of the interview, I used to take walks. The reasons I did was 1) to relax my mind, clear the negative thoughts, and 2) practice answering the questions I predicted (related to number 2). I gave myself enough time to complete my walk and put on my best duds. It’s important that you feel good and look great before going off to the interview.

During the interview

6. Admit that you’re nervous. That’s correct. Make a brief statement about how you haven’t interviewed in a while and might have some jitters but are very interested in the position. This will explain a slow start until you warm up and get into high gear. This doesn’t give you the right to completely lose your nerves; eventually you’ll settle down.

7. Don’t let the questions that are very difficult get to you. There are bound to be some questions that stump you, but don’t lose your head if no answer comes to mind. Instead ask if you can think about the questions a bit longer by saying, “That’s a very good question and one I’d like to answer. Can I think about this a bit longer?” Don’t take too long, however.

Note: To make matters more difficult, interviewers are wary of answers that sound rehearsed. Take the weakness question: interviewers have heard too often the, “I work too hard” answer. It’s disingenuous and predictable. And never answer, “What is your greatest strength?” with you’re a perfectionist, an answer that carries negative connotations and is, again, predictable.

8. Use your research to your advantage. Whereas some candidates may seem naturally composed and confident, your knowledge of the job and company will be impressive and negate any nervousness you have. Your advanced research will show your interest in the position and the company, something any good interviewer will appreciate.

Note: Start an answer or two with, “Based on my research, I’ve learned that…. Simply hearing the word “research” will go over very well with the interviewers.

9. Remember you’re not the only one who’s nervous. Come on. Do you think you’re the only one in the room who’s nervous? Many interviewers will admit that they’re also nervous during the interview; there’s a lot at stake for them. They have to hire the right person, lest they cost the company someone who’s a bad fit or not capable of doing the job.

10. Lastly, have fun. Come on, Bob, you’re thinking. Seriously, don’t take yourself so seriously. Be yourself. You’ve done all you can to prepare for the interview, the research, the practice, a good night’s sleep, etc. What more can you do? Show the interviewers you are relaxed and calm…and right for the job. Have as much fun as you can.

Anyone who tells you interviews are not nerve-racking think you were born yesterday. I’ve had exactly two people in eight years tell me they enjoy interviews. Those are people who must either be ultra confident or out of their mind. Even job candidates who do well at an interview, experience some jitters and recall times when they could have done better, including keeping their hand from shaking while holding a cup of water.

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Photo by xianrendujia on Flickr

8 awesome traits of the introvert

I wrote this post more than a year ago but have since added another strong trait of the introvert. 

When I ask my Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) workshop attendees if they think I’m an introvert or extravert, they usually guess wrong. “But you’re so lively and loud,” they say.

What do they expect from me, Dawn of the Living Dead?

Many people don’t see the eight awesome traits introverts demonstrate. Here they are:

1. The ability to speak in public is the first of eight awesome traits the introverts demonstrate. Those of my attendees who guess wrong about my preference believe that to be an effective speaker, one must be an extravert.

They see my outward personality as an extraverted trait. I don’t blame them for guessing wrong, because society has been under the impression that showmanship belongs exclusively to the extraverts.

2. You want a sincere conversation? You’ll get it with introverts. Our thing is not more is better, as in the number of people with whom we speak. No, we prefer talking with fewer people and engaging in deeper conversation. You’ll know we’ll give you our undivided attention. It’s helpful if we’re interested in the topic.

3. We think before we speak. Dominating a meeting is not our style; we favor something akin to Parliamentary Procedure. That doesn’t mean we don’t have intelligent things to say; we just don’t like to compete with the extraverts who learn by talking.

The problem with our method of communicating is we might not get the opportunity to get our brilliant thoughts out in the open.

4. We rule when it comes to research. We learn best by researching topics on our own and, as such, prefer the computer over dialog. Extraverts learn best by throwing around ideas among their colleagues and friends. We find staff meetings unproductive unless there’s an agenda and some sense of order. Brainstorming is usually a waste of time to us.

5. We hear you the first time. We’re considered great listeners. But we don’t appreciate being talked at. We’re perceptive so you don’t need to stress your point with 10 minutes of nonstop talking. You don’t like caviar, you say. And you had a bad experience eating it when you were a child. Got it.

6. We love to write. Writing is our preferred mode of communication, but this doesn’t mean we’re incapable of talking. We just don’t have the capacity to talk from sunrise to sunset. Writing allows us to formulate our thoughts and express them eloquently. There’s no denying, however, that our workplace favors those who talk; so there are times when we put down the pen and let our voice be heard.

7. We’re just as creative as the next person. Our creative juices flow from solitude, not open spaces where people throw Nerf footballs, eat cookies, and attend wrap sessions until 10:00 pm. If you see us working intently in our offices or cubicles, we’re usually enjoying “moments,” so don’t break our concentration. Nothing personal; we’ll join you at the pool table when our work is completed.

8. We can stand being alone. We don’t need constant attention from others; rather we enjoy the time to think and reflect on life in general. Some might consider this as standoffish, but those are people who require a great deal of stimuli and don’t understand the beauty of Quiet (watch Susan Cain’s YouTube video). We develop long-lasting friendships with fewer people, as deeper is better than broader. Don’t pity us if you have 20 friends and we have only five. We’re good with that.


My MBTI workshop attendees are not far off the mark when they guess I’m an extravert; I do have the ability to put on the Robin Williams act, or revert to a serious Bill Belichick persona. I put 100% into teaching the finer points of the job search, and as a result my exit from the room is quick and toward the stairway to where I can retreat to my computer.

Don’t be stumped at the interview; ask questions about 3 major areas

 

stumpedHow often have you come to the end of an interview and drawn a blank when it was your time to ask the questions? The interview has proceeded like a pleasant conversation in which you’ve asked questions throughout, but now you’re stumped.

You’ve asked all the questions you can think of.

Hopefully this hasn’t happened too often or not at all. But even the most qualified candidates have a moment of letdown and lose the interview because they were unprepared.

It’s extremely important that you have insightful questions to ask at the end of an interview. It shows your interest in the job and the company, and it shows that you’re prepared, all of which the employer likes to know.

Arrive prepared for the interview. Before the interview write 10-15 questions on a sheet of paper or note cards. If you think you can remember them, simply tuck them in your leather binder for safekeeping. However, you may need assistance when your nerves are rattled and you’ve reached the point of exhaustion, in which case you can ask if you can refer to your written questions. Interviewers will generally allow you to read your answers off your sheet or note cards.

So what types of questions do you want to ask? What is the employer hoping to hear? Not “How much time do I get for lunch?” nor “What are the work hours?” nor “What’s the salary for this position?” In other words, no stupid question that will reflect poorly on you.

I tell my customers to focus on three general areas: the position, the company, and the competition.

1. The position. Don’t ask questions you could find by reading the job description; rather ask questions that demonstrate your advanced knowledge. For example, the ad says you’ll be required to manage a supervisor and 10 employees. You realize that a start-up company might not have the resources to train its supervisors in Lean Six Sigma, and you want to highlight your certificate as a Black Belt.

“I’d be curious to know if the current supervisor is certified in Lean Six Sigma, and if not would your company consider having me give him a basic course in LSS?” The answer is yes to your question, so you follow with another question that could lead to further conversation. “Would you like to talk further about how I can save your company money by training your supervisor?”

This question shows a legitimate concern for quality performance but also demonstrates your willingness to improve the supervisor’s knowledge, your ability to solve problems, and your desire to save the company money. Always ask questions that indicate you’re concerned most with what the company needs, not what you need.

2. The company. Like the questions you’ll ask about the position, research is essential for this area of questioning. Your research should entail more than visiting the company’s website and reading its marketing material—everything written will extol its superior products or services. In addition, talk to people in the company who can give you the good, bad, and ugly of the company.

“I’ve read on your website and spoken with some of the people here who verify that your customer satisfaction rate is very high. Could you tell me if there are issues your customers have that need to be addressed immediately?”

The interviewers are happy to hear that you’re thinking about satisfying customers and indicate there have been some complaints about late shipments.

“In that case, I can assure you that late shipments will dramatically decrease. We may have failed to talk about the role I had at my previous company which had me oversee shiping and create a system that decreased late shipments by 35%, thereby saving the company thousands of dollars in returns. Would you like to talk about how I can help your company improve shipping processes?”

3. The competition. The company has one company that is giving it headaches. It’s a sore topic, but you want to make the interviewers aware that you are coming in with your eyes wide open. Your research has told you that the other company is competing for some market share in the widget product.

“I’m aware of company XYZ’s movement in its widget. What are your concerns, if any, Company XYZ poses in this market? I have ideas of how to market your similar product to your customers. Would you like to hear them?”

After a great conversation, where you’ve answered the interviewers’ questions and asked some of your own,  it’s your turn to ask more questions. Don’t go to the interview unprepared to ask the interviewers illuminating questions of your own. Failing to ask quality questions can mean he difference between getting or not getting the job.