“What do you know about our company so far?”
An unprepared answer to this question is a common reason the first interview fails before it begins. The first touch with a decision-maker is the 1st interview. A “touch” can be a phone call, a video call, or face to face. It’s the 1st impression. Take it seriously. Set aside time to prepare.
Quotes from candidates that cause anxiety for recruiters
- “It’s just a phone interview.”
- “I’ll do it from the car while driving to an appointment.”
- “I’ll take the call to hear them out, and see what they can offer me.”
- “What was the name of the company again?”
Whether a passive or active job seeker, the largest percentage of YES/NO decisions are made at this step (first video or phone interviews with the hiring manager). It is a big deal, and here at TESA Talent Advisory, we see a clear connection between those who take the time to prepare and those who decide they do not. It would be best if you did more than browsing the company job description and webpage for ten minutes.
The first interview is like other first impressions. You are judged not only on your knowledge & resume but how you go about your business and handle yourself. Work ethic, dependability, and emotional intelligence are significant influences on the hiring decision.
- Get to a quiet location. Focus on this call and ONLY this call. Not from the highway or coffee shop. This lack of focus alone has crushed many a process before it began.
- Make sure your cell/web connection is excellent. Don’t agree to a call unless you know the signal (or web connection) is top-notch. If it is choppy, it can give the impression that you don’t plan well or that the call was not a priority for you.
- “What do you know about XYZ company so far?” Please do enough research to have an intelligent answer to this question. Get familiar with the company online. Enough to ask a few questions too.
- Review the profile of the person (people) you will be talking to; Recently, I have heard from hiring managers that were disappointed that the candidate did not look at their profile.
- Speak loud and proud, e·nun·ci·ate your words; if you find that you may be rambling, stop, and simply ask if you answered the question, which leads to the next bullet.
- Make sure you answer the question they are asking, qualify the question if needed. It sounds obvious, but we are humans.
- When asked about your motivation, don’t phone this in—motivation matters. Spend more time talking about where you would like to go and why the prospective employer may be attractive to you vs. why you are not happy or the past. It is easy to get caught up discussing how and why you don’t like your current situation. You can quickly address that but then quickly move to the future and make it about the company you are going to, not the one from which you are running. Stay positive. Avoid the dark sea of negativity!
- The goal is to get the next step while learning more about the company’s goals and needs. “Don’t try to do too much” is the sports phrase used. It’s the first play of the game; you are on your own 25 yard-line. Try to get a first down—no need for a Hail Mary pass.
Etiquette and Approach
- Do you want special inside info about what separates the great candidate from the pack? It is the questions that you ask. Even if you are a passive job seeker, the best approach is to be a problem solver. Put your ego aside; if your primary goal in the first call is to see what the company can do for you, it may not come off well. Employers want problem solvers.
The questions that a candidate asks will show the company what is important to them.
- Ask about them and the company first. Diagnose before you prescribe. Your time will come; we previously wrote about how the interview process is like a slow-moving pendulum.
- Good question example: “What are the characteristics of your most successful people?”
- Avoid blatant questions about what it is in it for you, such as benefits, salary & perks. As long as you know, you are in the ballpark, when you speak to the hiring manager, this is the time to show your value. The salary question is essential, but not at this stage. If they ask, answer the question, but the candidate should not bring up salary.
- Ask them if they have more questions for you.
- Summarize and close. Let them know that you heard them and understand what their need is for the job. Thank them and ask for the next step.
- Check with your recruiter about sending the hiring manager a follow-up email to show a continued interest.
- Take this step as seriously as you would a final, in-person meeting.