When you’re looking for help with landing a job making sure the interview goes well is key.
When you hear this question, know that it is a test of your ability to summarize information concisely, not a test of the presence or absence of job skills. Once you go down the road of trying to list everything the job entails, you’ll soon grind to halt in a great steaming cloud of words—assuming you don’t bore them to death first.
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Simply, you have to have the confidence to be brief, to pick only the essence of the job—which is usually either something to do with making a profit or keeping stakeholders happy—and then peppering that with maybe one or two everyday logistical tasks.
So let’s say you’re applying for the job of airline pilot:
My job is to fly passengers safely, on time, in comfort, at a profit to my employer.
And that, believe it or not, is a good answer in the eyes of many. Compare it to what you see when Googling the phrase “Boeing 747 pre-flight checklist.”
If they want more, you might also wow them with:
- The exact job title.
- The reporting relationship, both up and down.
- Key performance indicators for you, your team or your product.
- One or two key challenges to be overcome in the industry.
How did you hear about the position?
The Real Question: How plugged in to our company are you?
Top-line Tactic: If possible, take this opportunity to highlight your personal connection to, or passion for, the company.
Could the interviewer simply be trying to find out which of their recruiting channels is bringing in quality candidates like you? Possibly that’s part of the reason for asking this seemingly straightforward question, but there is also probably something of a hidden agenda.
As we mention in several questions throughout this article, potential employers are like potential dates—they want you to be interested in them specifically, not whoever happens to be available at the moment.
Questions about how you came across the job, therefore, are likely to be testing whether you sought out this particular firm or type of employer and feel strongly about what they do or whether you simply stumbled upon the job opening on a massive job board.
If it’s at all the truth, now is the time to highlight your personal connection to the company. Did you hear about the opening from a friend or contact? Here’s the perfect way to mention that without sounding like an obnoxious namedropper. Did you locate the job through research into the industry or company because you had an interest in moving your career in their direction? Definitely tell your interviewer that.
Even if you came across the job simply by browsing through ads or via a recruitment agency, when you tell the interviewer that be sure to add a few details about why this opportunity in particular got you excited and fits your skills and abilities.
Why do you want to work at this company?
The Real Question: Have you been following us for a long time, or have you just read up on us?
Top-line Tactic: Show that you are familiar with the company’s regular outputs, not just its “About Us” article.
Many people can do a decent job of talking about their skills, experience and motivation, but fail to make a convincing case when talking about the target company. Recruitment experts report that candidates often focus on what the job will do for them, rather than what they will do for the company. These candidates need a simple shift in focus.
Genuine enthusiasm for the company and its business is a powerful way to get the interviewer to take an interest in you and your application, so you should treat this part of the question as an opportunity to show the interviewer that you’ve done your research on the company. Make sure that your research is current and relevant to the question, and shows that you’ve been keeping abreast of the company’s development plans. Setting a news alert on a search engine for the company you’re interviewing for can be a great help in the days preceding your interview.
You could choose to refer to a recent piece of news regarding the company’s success, or its expansion plans, then explain how you would like to contribute during this exciting period of growth. What you say is part of the story, but most important is to let your enthusiasm shine through; it’s all about showing you want to commit to that company, and it’s not just a job.
Finally, if you are being interviewed by your prospective boss, focusing on your personal contribution has particular power; if you are looking forward to helping the company succeed, then you will also be making your prospective boss look good.