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What to research before a job interview

It can be easy to forget that a job interview should be a two-way street – not only is the employer trying to determine whether you fit their needs, but you should also be evaluating whether they fit yours.

Many job seekers don't view the interview this way, and as a result, put themselves at a disadvantage. After all, most companies research candidates online before hiring them – and even if they don't, you sent them an overview of relevant information about yourself – your resume.

Not only does researching an employer help even the playing field in the interview, but it also shows that you're committed to getting hired. Here are some key things you should know about a company before sitting down for an interview.

What do they do?

First and foremost, you should understand what the company does. It may sound obvious, but not being able to supply a clear answer to this question in an interview will severely hurt your chances of being hired.

The best way to find this information is often a combination of the company's website – where you can learn how they view what they do – and Wikipedia – where you can usually get a much more clearly worded, bare-bones definition.

What will you do?

Again, this may sound obvious, but not knowing what the job they're interviewing for entails is one of the biggest mistakes a candidate can make. Your goal in the interview is to demonstrate and explain what makes you the best candidate to carry out the duties of the position – how can you expect to successfully do that if you don't know what those duties entail?

What are their values?

Most interviewees will be able to explain what the company does, but you can really impress your interviewer by demonstrating an understanding of why they do it. This can usually be gleaned from the company's mission and values – both of which can typically be found on their website. This type of information is also usually found on their social media accounts and in interviews with company leadership.

Not only is this a great way to show your commitment to getting this job, but assessing a business's mission and values and how they align with your own personal values can be a great indicator of whether this company is a good fit for you.

What's new and noteworthy?

A company's function and mission are typically somewhat broad in scope and relatively unchanging. But what have they been up to recently to better achieve their goals? Are they offering any new products or services? Opening offices in new markets? Have they recently taken up a new cause or started any new initiatives?

This is all great information with which to arm yourself before entering an interview. It shows that you did more than a quick look at their homepage, and that you're genuinely interested in what they do as a company. Start by looking at the company's press room, where you can find information they've prepared for reporters and the media. A Google news search for the company or the names of company leaders can also provide useful information.

Who are the leaders?

As mentioned above, knowing a bit about the company's leadership team can be helpful in researching and preparing for an interview. Many corporate websites include brief bios on a number of their key leaders, and in some cases you can even find them on social media.

Depending on the size of the company and the position you're applying for, it's not unheard of for managers or executives to get involved in the hiring process.

Who is your interviewer?

As we mentioned, going into the interview, they already know a lot about you, so it can't hurt to find out what you can about them. Often, your interviewer will be the person to contact you to schedule the interview. However, if this isn't the case, ask your contact for the name of the person you should ask for when you arrive for the interview.

While knowing the interviewer's title and work history can potentially help you prepare for what kind of questions to expect, it's often more useful to simply get a feel for their personality. After all, employers often use interviews to gauge how well you'd fit with the team culture. Look for shared interests and other potential conversation topics that you can use to build a rapport.


Interviewing while pregnant

A baby on the way means it’s imperative to get your finances in order, which may mean looking for a new job. But how does this factor affect your job search? Whether you’re already pregnant when you start your job search or you find out you’re expecting in the midst of a career change, navigating the process understanding an employer’s expectations can feel confusing.

Here, career coaches and employment attorneys weigh in on how to understand an employer’s potential concerns, as well as assert your own professionalism and experience to create the opportunity to score the job.

Should employers know?
The question most people want answered is: “Will a hiring manager look at me differently if I’m pregnant?” Donna Ballman is an employment attorney and author of “Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired.” She says, “Many people think it's dishonest not to disclose a pregnancy while job hunting, or maybe even legally required. I think this is a mistake, and a misunderstanding of the law. While applicants usually understand that you shouldn't disclose a disability while job hunting, and most employers understand that they shouldn't ask, both sides seem to treat pregnancy differently.

“My best advice is to not disclose your pregnancy while job hunting. If you're showing, then you may have to say something, but otherwise don't disclose until you get a firm job offer. If they rescind the offer or fire you once they find out you're pregnant, then you may have a pregnancy discrimination case. Once you get the job, then you can – when you are about to start showing – disclose and start talking to them about maternity leave.” Ballman adds, “However, you won't qualify for Family and Medical leave unless you worked there at least a year.”

For more legal information, check out the National Advocates for Pregnant Women’s “Guide to Pregnancy Discrimination in Employment,” which is a downloadable PDF that shares excellent advice, information and resources on motherhood, work and family.

Why employers care
Today, businesses (and our culture as a whole) are stressing the value of having more women in the workplace, so it seems contradictory that a woman becoming pregnant is a concern that employers may have. The reason, though, is important to understand. Roy Cohen is a career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide.” He says, “One of the biggest concerns is that you will start a job and then disappear.”

If you only work for a short time before you’re out on maternity leave, and if you end up deciding not to come back, employers will have lost money on hiring you. To ease the employer’s worry, speak to how this organization and job fit into your career goals, how long you picture yourself at the organization and any other alignments you can point out. Ultimately an employer wants to hire someone who has a future at the company and can perform at a high quality.

Talking about your pregnancy
If you acknowledge your condition, you can assure potential employers that this will not affect your potential job performance in the new role. To do this, express your preparedness for the baby’s arrival, as well as any career or job strategies that you’ve created for your expanding family.

If you’re an experienced mother, this can play to your advantage since you understand how a new baby’s arrival changes your life and the time availability you have. However, you do not have to disclose that you have children or share any family particulars if you choose not to. If you do want to, though, Cohen says, “If you have been pregnant before then by all means speak from a place of experience.” This can range from a conversation on how you manage your time and a work/life balance to the company culture expectation of hours worked. The more you sound like your availability and skills will fit what the employer needs and the organization strives for, the greater your chances are of getting an offer.

No matter how you choose to handle the news that you’re pregnant, you’ll find success in your job search by focusing on communicating your professionalism, experience and how this organization and this role fit into your career goals and capabilities. 


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3 benefits to using a staffing firm in your job search

Sometimes a job search can feel isolating. You're spending hours upon hours searching for opportunities, working on your resume and applying to job openings, often without having any outside feedback about what you're doing right or wrong. That isolation can add a lot of emotional stress to an already nerve-wracking experience.

What you may not realize is that you don't have to go it alone. "Psychologists tell us that next to death of a spouse, death of a child and death of a parent, the fourth most emotional experience we have, coupled with divorce, is searching for a job. It is emotionally stressful," says Tony Beshara, owner and president of Babich & Associates, the oldest placement and recruitment service in Texas. "A professional staffing firm can help eliminate that emotional stress. Staffing firms are in the trenches on a daily basis with candidates and employers."

Beshara says the three key advantages of using a staffing firm are experience, insights and confidential opportunities. Read on to learn more about these benefits and how staffing firms can play a crucial role in helping you find your next career:

1. Experience
According to Beshara, the average U.S. professional changes jobs every two and a half to three years. So that means a worker may go a long stretch of time before needing to engage in a job search. Staffing firm recruiters, on the other hand, live and breathe the job-search process daily.

Beshara points out that within the period of time between job searches, the job market can change – sometimes drastically. "The staffing professional is current on exactly what is going on in the immediate market. They have a unique perspective that the job seeker will not have. The market for a particular skill or experience is never the same as it was three years ago. It isn't likely any job candidate is going to be aware of that change. So, the 'new' candidate may think that finding a job is going to be like 'last time,' but it's not."

A knowledgeable staffing professional can help navigate a job seeker through the market changes, so the job seeker is less likely to encounter any surprises or challenges along the way. "The experienced staffing pro doesn't give theoretical or abstract advice, but practical 'this is the way it is ... this is what you should expect ... this is what we should do' advice," Beshara says.

2. Insights
One of the often frustrating parts about job searching is not getting any feedback from employers as to why you aren't the right fit for a role. When working with a staffing firm, you get access to that kind of information, which can help improve your search now and down the line.

"Staffing professionals have insights that candidates can't get anywhere else," Beshara says. "Since the majority of us work the same clients and the same hiring mangers over many years, we know what they like and how they like it, what they will hire and what they won't. Since we get to know them personally, we not only understand the job they are trying to fill but we know their personalities and personal likes and dislikes. We give those insights to our candidates to be sure both parties have the best chance of success not in just getting a job, but [in having] a long, solid employment relationship."

3. Confidential opportunities
According to a 2014 study conducted by CareerBuilder and Inavero, the attribute job seekers value the most in staffing sales representatives or recruiters is that they can find opportunities job seekers wouldn't be able to find themselves. Not only is that because staffing professionals are skilled at knowing which jobs might be the right fit, but it's also because they are privy to opportunities that job seekers wouldn't normally have access to.

"Because our clients trust us, they come to us with confidential job opportunities before they go to the general market," Beshara says. "We have access to the 'hidden' job market. Hiring authorities will often ask us to fill positions that even people in their own organization don't know about."

Sometimes, there doesn't even need to be a job opening for a staffing firm to get you a job. "Again, because of trust and insight, we know the kinds of employers that are interested in certain types of experience, whether or not they are 'actively looking' for a candidate," Beshara notes. "One-third of the positions we fill don't exist before we call a hiring authority representing a candidate we know they would be interested in speaking with. Employers will hire exceptional candidates when they come along even if they don't have a formal opening. A good staffing professional knows his or her hiring authorities well enough to know the kind of candidate they'd be interested in even if they aren't formally 'looking.'"

Have you had a positive experience working with a staffing firm? Tweet us at @CareerBuilder and let us know!