"Be prepared" is the best motto
By: Robert Half
Robert Half, CPA and founder of Robert Half International
Inc., the world's leader in specialized staffing and the parent company
of Robert Half and Accountemps
Like most people, I admire those who take the initiative when pursuing
a goal, and who apply creativity and resolve in order to prepare themselves
This is why I responded positively to a recent college graduate, the daughter
of a friend of mine, who's seeking a position in the accounting field.
As far as I'm concerned, she sets the standard for preparing oneself for
job interviews. Her resume was sufficiently solid and well-written to
have generated interviews at three good companies. She began her preparations
for each one by visiting her local library, where, using CD-Rom and logging
on to the Internet, she pulled up every article she could find from business
journals and local papers about the companies she'd be visiting. Because
she knew the names of two of the three hiring authorities with whom she'd
be interviewing, she researched their backgrounds, read accounts of speeches
they'd given, and drew a mental picture of them to the extent that she
was able. In addition, she called the companies' investor-relations departments
and asked for the most recent annual reports, which she personally picked
up and read carefully.
As the information-gathering process proceeded, she tried to anticipate
the sort of questions she'd be asked and contemplated the answers she
would give, stressing anecdotal means of getting across the points she
felt would best highlight her qualifications. Using a tape recorder, she
listened critically to the way she sounded, as well as the words and phrases
she chose to use. This young woman knew that she'd be expected to ask
questions too, and utilized the material she'd gathered about these companies
as a basis for formulating them. All of this represents the sort of interview
preparation every serious job candidate should undertake.
But, my friend's daughter took it a step further.
She went to each company at noontime and observed employees leaving for
lunch. Some congregated in a small park where they enjoyed the lunch they'd
brought to work with them. Others headed foe a luncheonette a few blocks
away. This job-seeker made mental note of the way they dressed and their
interaction with each other. She even approached a few of them in the
park and in the luncheonette, introduced herself, said she was scheduled
to be interviewed by their company, and asked questions of them: What
it was like to work there, how the company was doing, how they viewed
its future prospects, the state of the industry in which it did business,
and other areas that would help her gain a better understanding of the
company and its people.
This approach not only enabled her to demonstrate during the interviews
an impressive level of knowledge about her prospective employers, but
also enabled her to make a judgment about whether she wanted to work there,
assuming a job was offered. In one instance, the feedback she had received
from employees created second thoughts about whether she'd be comfortable
in that particular company's culture.
No matter how the nature of the workplace changes, getting ready for a
job interview still involves a series of basic rules, the most important
of which is thorough preparation. I'm still amazed at how many job-seekers
view interviews as a casual get-together, during which routine questions
will be asked and boilerplate responses given.
The truth is that, in today's highly competitive business world where
companies are making do with fewer people (and, by extension, needing
the best people to fill those jobs), the interviewing process has become
more intense, challenging, and, ultimately, more demanding of candidates.
My friend's daughter did everything to give herself a leg-up on other
candidates. It came through during her interviews that she was indeed
a serious candidate, one who had taken the time and trouble to know the
companies and how she might fit in. Translation to an employer: If she
works this hard at getting a job, she'll work even harder once she has
All three companies offered her a position. She ruled out the one whose
corporate culture she questioned, and chose the better of the remaining
"Be prepared" is the best motto to sum it up.
Your chance of landing the job you want might well depend upon it.