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The Common Interview Question That isn’t What it Seems

Co-Founder & Director
Co-Founder & Director
Phil co-founded The Consultancy Group in 2015. He provides expertise in placing senior finance professionals into FTSE Listed businesses through to fast-growth SMEs. Typical roles include CFO, Finance Director, Group / Divisional Financial Controllers, Head of Finance, FP&A Director and Commercial Finance leaders.

One question, that usually comes up early in any interview, is “What do you know about our company?” Almost all candidates do their research on a potential employer (those who don’t, won’t get much further than this question in the interviewer’s eyes), but this question isn’t about reciting a Wikipedia entry, their Companies House information or the About Us page of their website. Plenty of people can learn a few stats and quote them back at an interviewer. What this question really asks is threefold:

  1. What are we all about, what are you all about and do both viewpoints match?
  2. Did you go beyond reading our website? Tell me something I don’t know.
  3. How persuasive are you? How do you present your thoughts?

Starting with the first point above, you can see that it’s not factual information they’re looking for, but how well you understand the values of the company, as well as their direction and culture. Furthermore, you need to frame your answer so that it covers why the company’s attitudes and ambitions appeal to you and exactly what you can bring to the company to help them achieve their goals. It’s essentially your chance to tell them why you want to work there by highlighting the thing that most attracted you to speak to them in the first place and why you’ll be a good fit.

The second underlying ‘question within a question’ is your chance to impress with some thoughts about the company that aren’t readily available in their brochure. It’s an opportunity to show that your research skills go beyond a cursory online scan. It could be something positive you have learned about their reputation in the marketplace; a previous or present employee’s glowing testimonial that you have gathered via your own networks; or something topical in the company’s sector that may affect the company or that they are already active in. Looking at a wider picture of where and how the company operates may produce a number of points that will be of interest to the interviewer, particularly third party opinion that they have no control over.

Finally, as with much of the generic interview questions that you will face, this typical company question is a time to present your case or your prepared information from above in an engaging, concise manner. It’s not the cue for a 10-minute monologue, but for succinctly putting across your views and research, tied into why you want to work for them. Remember to keep it more about them than your own career path – and it’s stating the obvious that this is definitely not the moment to talk about compensation either!

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