Social Business, Social Media Staffing and Operations

6 Ways to Show You Give a Damn in a Job Interview

Elizabeth009Web.JPG 6 Ways to Show You Give a Damn in a Job InterviewGuest post by Elizabeth Sosnow, Managing Director of BlissPR, a New York City based public relations firm. She develops and supervises strategic communications programs for major companies in professional and financial services, with a particular emphasis on the legal, consulting and insurance industries.

job interview e1307161043427 6 Ways to Show You Give a Damn in a Job InterviewHe was an intelligent, well qualified senior candidate. Over the course of an hour long interview, he spoke about marketing trends knowledgeably, described relevant client work and seemed to be friendly, engaging professional. And I knew we’d never offer him a job.

Why? Because it was very clear that he hadn’t done his homework on us. Besides a brief mention of an obvious fact from the landing page of our website, he didn’t demonstrate that he knew who we were.

He didn’t reference the challenges our target audience faces. He didn’t ask about why we won a “Best Places to Work in New York” award. He didn’t tie our firm’s recent blog posts into the conversation. He didn’t attempt to research the interviewers’ recent social activity.

In short, he focused on selling himself. That might have been okay if we were looking to hire narcissists, but we prefer to hire team players.

I’ve interviewed probably 30 people in the past two months, from potential Senior Vice Presidents to AAEs. Most of them have been smart and…lazy.

Are you looking for a job? Then, please, please do your homework. This process will help you stand out from the crowd:

1. Start by gathering data on your interviewer(s) and the company
It’s incredibly easy to find powerful intelligence on the internet. And, um, aren’t you already doing that in your current job? With a little elbow grease, you can leap ahead of the other candidates:

  • Start with a deep look at the website – drill down 4 or 5 layers
  • Evaluate your interviewers’ LinkedIn profile, then see if you have any mutual connections. If you so, reach out to them to get their perspective on the company
  • Assess their Twitter stream with any eye towards what kind of information they share, on both a professional and personal level
  • Check out their Foursquare activities to see if you frequent the same places
  • Can you find video footage of them on YouTube, Vimeo, etc.?
  • Pull the last 10 blog posts by each interviewer (bonus points for looking at their guest posts for others)
  • Use free tools to draw a rich contextual picture, such as Watch that Page, Topsy, Backtype, Klout, Twitalyzer and LinkedIn Signal.
  • Run a Google search on both the firm and the interviewers, making sure to click through to the top 30 or so links. (Oh, and please don’t think a Google search is enough. It’s not. That’s why I list it as the last step, not the first.)

2. Assess the data and draw some initial conclusions

  • What does the firm stand for? Is the mission clear to you?
  • What kind of a client base does it have? How do they communicate with those targets?
  • Who are they? Look at their employees’ bios and social footprint
  • Are they connected to marketing or industry influencers? If yes, who? If not, who should they be connected to? Can you help them build those relationships?
  • What do they think? Read their thought leadership and get a handle on their point of view
  • Where are they headed? Any good firm is constantly evolving. Get a sense of who they “want to be.”
  • What does their job description tell you about their current staffing needs?

3. Consider how to weave in your own credentials: Now you know more about where you’d fit into the team

  • What experiences and skill sets can you offer to support their mission?
  • How should you account for your own weaknesses and “holes?”
  • Do you have past thought leadership that dovetails with their future goals?
  • How would you expect to grow in this position? Will those goals match how the company wants to grow?
  • Can you solicit references from past colleagues that will reinforce your fit for this position?

4. Develop questions that reflect your hypotheses

This needs to be customized, of course, but descriptive jumping off points include:

  • I see the company recently chose to_________. Did you make that choice to reinforce your goal to ___________?
  • __ out of your employees are currently discussing (business topic) on their social networks. Is that where you are intending to focus your sales in 2011?
  • I watched your recent speech on ______ on YouTube. I noticed that you received a lot of questions on (topic), but I actually wanted to ask you _________?

5. Listen for clues in your initial discussion
When you finally get into the interview, expect to modify your assumptions. Your interviewers will immediately start giving you a great “bread crumb trail,” if you listen. Stay nimble and adapt your preparation.

6. Write a thank you note that summarizes conversational themes
It may be old fashioned, but I love it when someone writes a thoughtful note that shows they were listening and excited about our discussion. Passion and follow-though is a potent combination for employers.

Does this sound like work? It is, if you do it right. But I kinda believe that if you put this kind of effort towards a job interview, someone will deduce that you’d put it towards a new job.

How do you prepare for an interview?

(BlissPR is a Convince & Convert client)

Related
  • MollyFulton

    Excellent advice! I have interviewed a lot of people in recent months, and I am always surprised how many people sell themselves on the basis that the position is just what they’re looking for, what they are interested in or what they would love to do. That, coupled with not doing any homework, makes me want to shout “What makes you think the purpose of our hiring is your happiness and fulfillment?” Show me you know my business, that you understand our direction and needs, and tell me how you can contribute to our vision – not how we can contribute to yours. If it’s the right fit, the match will satisfy both parties.

  • MollyFulton

    Excellent advice! I have interviewed a lot of people in recent months, and I am always surprised how many people sell themselves on the basis that the position is just what they’re looking for, what they are interested in or what they would love to do. That, coupled with not doing any homework, makes me want to shout “What makes you think the purpose of our hiring is your happiness and fulfillment?” Show me you know my business, that you understand our direction and needs, and tell me how you can contribute to our vision – not how we can contribute to yours. If it’s the right fit, the match will satisfy both parties.

  • http://krisschindler.com/ KrisSchindler

    Shoe also fits on the other foot. If you’re talking with me, an intelligent, well qualified senior candidate, about joining your team in a very senior position, I expect you to have at least read my submission materials.

  • http://krisschindler.com/ KrisSchindler

    Shoe also fits on the other foot. If you’re talking with me, an intelligent, well qualified senior candidate, about joining your team in a very senior position, I expect you to have at least read my submission materials.

  • MollyFulton

    @KrisSchindler Yes, Kris. You’re absolutely right. It really is about respecting the time and effort of those sharing either (time or effort) with you. As the title of this post suggests, you have to show you give a damn about the job, the company, the applicant, the person who needs a problem solved that is sitting right in front of you. That may be a business with growing pains or a hole to fill or new initiative to execute or it may be an individual trying to advance a career or pay the mortgage. Either way, I think putting a little effort into understanding the other party will pay big dividends for both.

  • MollyFulton

    @KrisSchindler Yes, Kris. You’re absolutely right. It really is about respecting the time and effort of those sharing either (time or effort) with you. As the title of this post suggests, you have to show you give a damn about the job, the company, the applicant, the person who needs a problem solved that is sitting right in front of you. That may be a business with growing pains or a hole to fill or new initiative to execute or it may be an individual trying to advance a career or pay the mortgage. Either way, I think putting a little effort into understanding the other party will pay big dividends for both.

  • JosephManna

    This is quite a comprehensive list of ways to show you give a damn. But, you’re exactly right.

    I can tell you from recent experience when I made my first hire on my team for our social media and communications, you’re dead on. My new hire wasn’t selected only because of their ‘impressive’ skillset. Skills half the battle. It’s the total package. It mattered they had enough drive and interest to research the company and determine if it’s a fit for them. Anyone can get a job, but only few get to find a career that’s made for them. It also helped them fare much better in the assessment since they got a firm grasp of how we operate, our style and tone. This is especially important if you’re looking for a marketing or social media position.

    On a side note, it doesn’t mean kissing ass. Only chase after a position if you really, really feel passionate about it. Research the company more than the company researching you and when you don’t think you’re a perfect fit, come to the table with questions and prepare to fold. That’s much, much more respectful of the interviewer’s time and they’ll appreciate it.

    In summary, show that you don’t want the job or that the you’re an ideal fit. Show you give a crap about it and hustle. It makes you stand out from the rest of the hundreds of applicants for the job.

  • JosephManna

    This is quite a comprehensive list of ways to show you give a damn. But, you’re exactly right.

    I can tell you from recent experience when I made my first hire on my team for our social media and communications, you’re dead on. My new hire wasn’t selected only because of their ‘impressive’ skillset. Skills half the battle. It’s the total package. It mattered they had enough drive and interest to research the company and determine if it’s a fit for them. Anyone can get a job, but only few get to find a career that’s made for them. It also helped them fare much better in the assessment since they got a firm grasp of how we operate, our style and tone. This is especially important if you’re looking for a marketing or social media position.

    On a side note, it doesn’t mean kissing ass. Only chase after a position if you really, really feel passionate about it. Research the company more than the company researching you and when you don’t think you’re a perfect fit, come to the table with questions and prepare to fold. That’s much, much more respectful of the interviewer’s time and they’ll appreciate it.

    In summary, show that you don’t want the job or that the you’re an ideal fit. Show you give a crap about it and hustle. It makes you stand out from the rest of the hundreds of applicants for the job.

  • http://hoop.la/ rosemaryoneill

    Oh, I’m jumping up and down reading this. I’ve interviewed a LOT of people over the years, and it’s sadly rare for someone to have even visited our website, much less know anything about our products/services. With the slightest bit of Googling, you’d know everything, including the fact that I have a cat and love movies. There’s simply no excuse for going in unprepared. However, it does make it easy for me to weed out people right off the bat!

  • http://hoop.la/ rosemaryoneill

    Oh, I’m jumping up and down reading this. I’ve interviewed a LOT of people over the years, and it’s sadly rare for someone to have even visited our website, much less know anything about our products/services. With the slightest bit of Googling, you’d know everything, including the fact that I have a cat and love movies. There’s simply no excuse for going in unprepared. However, it does make it easy for me to weed out people right off the bat!

  • JosephManna

    This is quite a comprehensive list of ways to show you give a damn. But, you’re exactly right.

    I can tell you from recent experience when I made my first hire on my team for our social media and communications, you’re dead on. My new hire wasn’t selected only because of their ‘impressive’ skillset. Skills are half the battle. Employers are looking for the total package. It mattered prospective hires have enough drive and interest to research the company and determine if it’s a fit for them. Anyone can get a job, but only few get to find a career that’s made for them. It also helped them fare much better in the assessment since they had a firm grasp of how we operate, our style and tone. This is especially important if you’re looking for a marketing or social media position.

    On a side note, it doesn’t mean kissing ass. Only chase after a position if you really, really feel passionate about it. Research the company more than the company researching you and when you don’t think you’re a perfect fit, come to the table with questions and prepare to fold. That’s much, much more respectful of the interviewer’s time and they’ll appreciate it.

    In summary, show that you don’t want the job or that the you’re an ideal fit. Show you give a crap about it and hustle. It makes you stand out from the rest of the hundreds of applicants for the job.

  • JosephManna

    This is quite a comprehensive list of ways to show you give a damn. But, you’re exactly right.

    I can tell you from recent experience when I made my first hire on my team for our social media and communications, you’re dead on. My new hire wasn’t selected only because of their ‘impressive’ skillset. Skills are half the battle. Employers are looking for the total package. It mattered prospective hires have enough drive and interest to research the company and determine if it’s a fit for them. Anyone can get a job, but only few get to find a career that’s made for them. It also helped them fare much better in the assessment since they had a firm grasp of how we operate, our style and tone. This is especially important if you’re looking for a marketing or social media position.

    On a side note, it doesn’t mean kissing ass. Only chase after a position if you really, really feel passionate about it. Research the company more than the company researching you and when you don’t think you’re a perfect fit, come to the table with questions and prepare to fold. That’s much, much more respectful of the interviewer’s time and they’ll appreciate it.

    In summary, show that you don’t want the job or that the you’re an ideal fit. Show you give a crap about it and hustle. It makes you stand out from the rest of the hundreds of applicants for the job.

  • carmenhill

    “That might have been okay if we were looking to hire narcissists, but we prefer to hire team players.” Nicely put, Elizabeth. So many interviews leave me underwhelmed; this nails the problem in at least some of those cases. The other issue I see is that people often don’t share appropriate portfolio samples for the kind of work we do…which kind of goes back to the first point: doing the research and coming in prepared.

  • carmenhill

    “That might have been okay if we were looking to hire narcissists, but we prefer to hire team players.” Nicely put, Elizabeth. So many interviews leave me underwhelmed; this nails the problem in at least some of those cases. The other issue I see is that people often don’t share appropriate portfolio samples for the kind of work we do…which kind of goes back to the first point: doing the research and coming in prepared.

  • npeter72

    Great post. But I want to add that the “doing your homeworks” goes both ways. The interviewer should also be prepared by studying the applicant’s resume, be prepared with more concrete questions other than the typical “tell me about yourself” question, and know exactly what you’re looking for.

    I’ve been to some interviews in which the interviewers were clearly not prepared and it was a waste of my time too!

  • elizabethsosnow

    Thanks very much – I’m so glad you liked the post. Doing your homework absolutely goes both ways – and I make sure to evaluate candidates with targeted, customized questions.

    But, I’ll also tell you an honest truth – the burden of proof usually rests with the potential employee. It may not be fair, but it is often the way of the world .

    Elizabeth Sosnow @npeter72

  • http://www.identitypr.com/blog Nikki_Stephan

    Awesome suggestions, Elizabeth! It absolutely is work preparing for an interview, but it’s worth it in the long run if that prep work turns into a job.

    I know we live in a technology-driven world, but I still think a handwritten “thank you” note after an interview is still impressive and very appreciated.

  • Artemisa_559

    @nikkistephan @elizabethsosnow As a person on the job hunt this is EXTREMELY helpful. Thanks a million for posting :)

  • nikkistephan

    @Artemisa_559 @elizabethsosnow did all the work, I just shared it. :) But glad you found the job interview tips helpful.

  • npeter72

    @elizabethsosnow @npeter72 I disagree that the burden of proof rests on the potential employee. At the end of the day, it’s about making sure a good match is made between the candidate and the employer. So both side has to put in equal and honest efforts inorder to make the interview process effective and productive.

    If the interviewer is lazy and isn’t prepared properly for the interview, he/she may stumble through the interview and at the end, may not be able to assess the candidate’s skills/qualifications/fit properly.

  • JamieFavreau

    Really great advice. I try and go in with a mini plan of what I would do if I were to get the job. I think it shows an added thing because not only you did research but you also set up a plan of what you would do if you were to start there.

  • OnlineBusinesVA

    Wow, lots to digest. Thanks for generously sharing this useful info. Especially appreciate the acknowledgment for the preparation how to do in interview. Thanks for the share.

  • AERENE

    This will be very helpful in my work as a mentor. Thank you for sharing!

  • elizabethsosnow

    @AERENE so glad that you liked it – and thanks for sharing it on Twitter :)

  • elizabethsosnow

    It is alot to digest…but what’s funny is that I usually don’t even see 20% of this kind of prep done…so what does that tell you? @OnlineBusinesVA

  • elizabethsosnow

    Jamie, that’s outstanding. I would so thrilled and grateful if someone brought that kind of approach and thinking into an interview with our firm. Kudos – great advice for others to consider! @JamieFavreau

  • elizabethsosnow

    that’s a good point, about handwritten notes, Nikki. I agree with you, though I’d say about 90% of the notes that I get are now emails…But I always notice the handwritten notes – they stand out. Isn’t that the point?@Nikki_Stephan

  • elizabethsosnow

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one…in a perfect world, it *would* be about an ideal match between company and candidate. But it’s not a perfect world. The reality is, most job hunters will interview at companies that are evaluating hiring one individual out of perhaps 20 or even 100 candidates. The luxury of choice muddies the notion of “ideal matches.”@npeter72

  • elizabethsosnow

    what a good point, Carmen. In this day and age, it’s so easy to pull your work into an attractive portfolio. It’s short-sighted not to constructively show-off ;) @carmenhill

  • elizabethsosnow

    I love your take, Joseph. I particularly agree about “kissing ass.” We want to find people who are excited about where we’re headed as a company, not folks who want to stroke egos. That’s not a real valuable skill-set ;) @JosephManna

  • elizabethsosnow

    Well, you hit the nail on the head, there. It sure does make it easy to filter resumes…though I suspect that’s cold comfort for both of us! @rosemaryoneill

  • elizabethsosnow

    Absolutely – it should be the price of entry. @KrisSchindler

  • elizabethsosnow

    Oh, Molly…I think I need to have you around more often ;) @MollyFulton

  • http://www.identitypr.com/blog Nikki_Stephan

    @elizabethsosnow Yes, exactly. :)

  • npeter72

    @elizabethsosnow Have you been to any job interviews lately? The reality is that there are companies out there doing a lousy job of interviewing.

    Instead of asking questions to assess a candidate’s skills and experiences, they resort to some sort of assessment tests or some other gimmicks. TSo you can be prepared and do all kind of research, but if the interviewers ask you irrelevant questions or make you take these nonsense assessment tests, it’s very frustrating experience.

    Time is precious and you shouldn’t have to waste time with companies that don’t respect your time don’t know what they are looking for. We all have choices. Companies have choice on who they want to hire. Job seekers have choice on who they want to work for.

    What I recommend is that job seekers should request for a phone interview with the hiring manager first. If the phone interview goes well, then you can agree to an in person interview.

  • DirectResponse.net

    I believe interviewing is 100% selling yourself. BUT, selling yourself does not mean just talking about yourself.

    Like a customer going through the buying process, you need to explain your features and turn them into BENEFITS for the company. The company is thinking about “purchasing” you as an employee. But first, they need to know what benefits will come from you (the product) if they do.

    Sell yourself by explaining your best features and turn them into benefits by tying them into the companies NEEDS. The only way to know the company’s needs is to do exactly what this well written article tells you to do. : )

  • elizabethsosnow

    @lancegodard thanks, my friend. How are you? It’s been awhile…

  • timotis

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Think I might be late too the game on this, but if not, here it goes:

    I think all of this “work” should start with passion for researching the company, its mission, its clients, key connections in social networks, etc. Then it’s not really about work as much as it is about truly wanting to work somewhere. You’re bringing up some key points for prospects to do their due diligence, but I think you’re giving secrets away :). I’d like people to just have the common sense of doing this stuff now that social interactions and activity have transcended human resources and for-hire circles.

    As for thank you notes, I have yet to see one that truly cites specific examples from discussions in the interview. More broader generalities are shared and it seems very scripted/boilerplate. Awesome to hear that is not always the case, as your shared experience shows.

  • timotis

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Think I might be late to the game on this, but if not, here it goes:

    I think all of this “work” should start with passion for researching the company, its mission, its clients, key connections in social networks, etc. Then it’s not really about work as much as it is about truly wanting to work somewhere. You’re bringing up some key points for prospects to do their due diligence, but I think you’re giving secrets away :). I’d like people to just have the common sense of doing this stuff now that social interactions and activity have transcended human resources and for-hire circles.

    As for thank you notes, I have yet to see one that truly cites specific examples from discussions in the interview. More broader generalities are shared and it seems very scripted/boilerplate. Awesome to hear that is not always the case, as your shared experience shows.

  • busterkeaton

    @ryanmcmorrow They forgot to mention #7: “Play hard to get.” Interviewers are like fishermen and love wrestling to get you into the boat.

  • http://www.totalinsights.co.uk/ YasinAkgun

    great great great post! Have bookmarked it for future use :) the bit on researching the company is verrry effective. it’s astonishing how many people go into interviews blind..

  • rjackson

    Nice post. You’re right-you have to do your homework. The first thing I always do is go to their website!

  • ComeRecommended

    Thanks Elizabeth for the wonderful tips! As a Gen Y employer, I mostly work with and hire individuals fresh out of or still in college. It is astounding to me when, in an interview, the potential doesn’t mention my company or what we do.

    Sure, the job market is tough and you might be interviewing with several different companies, but doing your homework can really make or break the interview!

  • Project Socialize

    Great article! Many jobs seekers find themselves searching for a new position for the first time in years. One clear message, social media has changed the game and serious job seekers must change with it by partnering traditional techniques with new ones. Simply creating a resume and mailing it out to every company with an open position in your field of industry is not enough. Searching for a job in today’s economy in the midst of accelerated technological changes requires strategy, some technical know-how, and hard work.

  • kkociba

    Great advice, although I approach this homework from the perspective of finding out what problems and criticisms the employer faces and why it is worth it for them to pay me instead of someone else to solve those problems. The homework also answers the questions “Do I really want to spend 50+ hours/week working for this group?” “Will I be proud or embarrassed to say that I work for this group?” Yes, we all need jobs, but some jobs are not worth winning, and wouldn’t you much rather figure that out BEFORE you accept the job? As a post-script to those candidates who are put off by the lack of preparation by interviewers, I ask this question: if they don’t care enough about something as critical to the business as hiring a person to even read a resume to prepare for an interview, do you really want to work with them or, worse yet, for them? If they don’t prepare, don’t let it bother you, just walk away knowing that it’s their loss and that they are hurting themselves and their employer. Again, yes, we all need jobs, but at what price? Just like Mom & Dad said growing up, choose your friends wisely. Good luck to everyone in their job search!

  • letstalkandchat

    I just found a great company that builds websites for info products. To keep your costs low, they’ll mentor you on how to create your site, design a marketing funnel (one of the guys works in Hollywood and makes really slick videos), and the other guy programmed Myspace. If you’re looking to have professional web design for your small business and not waste any time or money then check their site out. Check them out: http://www.mikelmurphy.com/easy-info-product-site-system/