Whether it is quantitative, qualitative, secondary or primary data – during your time at university, you will have developed and utilised your research skills in some shape or form. This is why I often find it bemusing that undergraduate and postgraduate students often fail to carry out the simple task of researching potential employers and important sector information prior to interview.
Being able to demonstrate an understanding of the sector and employer that you are looking to work for is essential. And it is something that you should be doing prior to every interview. In an ideal situation, prior to the interview you will have developed an understanding of the organisational culture and its values.
Let’s say, in some weird turn of events, I end up managing the recruitment for an international automotive organisation and invite you to interview for one of my graduate positions. I welcome you into the interview room, hand you a tepid glass of water and introduce you to my stern faced, but immensely experienced interview panel. After a series of questions aimed at uncovering your skill set and personality, it is then time to explore your industry knowledge, and I ask you: “what challenges currently face the automotive sector?”
As an interviewer, it will be clear to spot a candidate that is unsure how to answer question answered or is trying to avoid answering the question entirely, so be sure to be well prepared. Once you put your mind to it, the question “what challenges currently face the automotive sector?” could be answered in so many ways, all of which will demonstrate to the employer that you have an impressive understanding of the area that you will be entering.
Question – what challenges currently face the automotive sector?
How would you answer this question? It provides you with the perfect opportunity to wow the interview panel with your industry knowledge. While you may have a good base knowledge developed through years of watching the 10 o’clock news or lunch time reading of articles on the BBC website, ask yourself this – are you confident that you could talk in any detail about the full spectrum of ‘challenges’ faced within your area?
• Challenges nationally & internationally
• Recruitment (e.g. skills shortages)
There are many ways to research; fortunately not all of them involve you having to head off to the University library for late night, junk food fuelled sessions. You should be able to gain all of the information you require through the following:
• Internet – If you are like me then you will spend a large amount of your time each week on the internet. It really takes no time at all to Google the name of the company you have an interview with. Seriously, after just three mouse clicks on the Aston Martin website, you are able to uncover news about new partnerships, environmental policy and company history. It is worth doing.
• News – Keep up to date with what is going on within the World. You never know, you may read in a newspaper about the possible investment in a particular sector, or about a recent takeover. After a quick Google I was able to find this: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e8f2cf66-eace-11e2-bfdb-00144feabdc0.html
• Publications – Reading relevant literature (journals, magazines etc) will provide you with a solid base of information
• Presentations – by attending employer presentations you will be able to learn directly from the horse’s mouth so to speak about the ins and outs of the company in question. Attending presentations and events demonstrates enthusiasm, which will undoubtedly impress an employer.
• Networking – Perhaps you know somebody that works/has worked at the company you have an interview with? If so, you could get an insight into the organisational structure and environment it may even be that they have had a similar interview that you will have.
• Gain experience – nothing beats gaining a working knowledge. Take any opportunity to gain experience within the sector you ultimately want to work in. This will give you a first-hand insight into the state of the sector and issues experienced by similar companies.
As the old saying goes:
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail