By: Lucas Mears
Landing an interview is a huge accomplishment! You finally have an opportunity to talk face to face with someone and fully explain yourself! When most people imagine an interview, they imagine the standardized questions they may be asked- “Tell me about yourself”, “what are your biggest strengths and weaknesses”, “tell me about a time that you…” These questions are important and serve as the foundation to most interviews. However, to truly stand out, you want to be more nuanced and prepared. This often comes down to the specific research you have completed or should complete beforehand about the company interviewing you.
You want the company interviewing you to leave with the impression that they are your first choice- not that they are one of ten companies you applied to. To do this, research companies specifically- do not do research that could be copied and pasted to any company in the industry. For example, if you were applying to Bank X and Bank Y you can give an answer about how you love banking because you always were interested in the finance industry. That answer is good, but it isn’t specific. If you do research on Bank X and see that they are expanding internationally, you can give a much more specific answer of “the international angle your company is taking is very interesting to me as I have a passionate interest in global banking”. The key is to make the answers specific to the company. Research current events, recent news articles, company strategies, etc. Use the company’s website, LinkedIn, Google, any resources that enable your search. The only caveat to this is to not research too specifically. Meaning, if you are on page 482 of the company’s financial records, you are probably too deep to discuss something with HR or a less senior level individual.
As soon as you have specific company research, there are many ways to utilize it during the interview. Use it as a conversational piece early on in the introductions or use it to help answer the “tell me about yourself” or “why this company” questions. This research could also help guide your answers to skill based or content focused questions, as you can tailor the experience you choose to talk about or the specific skill you reference when you know more about what the company is focused on or cares about. Additionally, using your research, you can tailor your questions at the end of the interview towards some of the things you learned. Using the Bank X example, you could ask “I know the company is in the process of a global expansion, what impacts do you/your team think this will have on ___?”. This will help show you’ve done your homework and help illustrate your genuine interest and passion in this company specifically and help you stand out more than general or generic questions. In the end, you want it to feel like a match where you are the company’s first choice and the company believes they are your first choice too.