“So tell me about yourself.”
This is how a lot of interviewers begin a conversation with a prospective candidate, and it makes sense - they want to learn about the candidate to determine if they’re the right candidate for the job. But there’s a flip side to that: candidates are also learning about the company to decide if they want to work for them, and that process starts long before the interview.
Reviews and opinions about everything from the quality of a company’s work to the temperament of their leaders are available at the click of a button on places like Google Reviews, Glassdoor, and more. And job-seekers are taking advantage of those tools to get to know a company’s reputation before they set foot in the door for their first interview. In addition, many candidates find out about job openings through connections who work at the company or have worked there in the past, giving them direct access to employees’ experiences.
Taking all of that into consideration, instead of starting the interview with the tried-and-true “tell me about yourself,” interviewers could benefit from trying a different approach: “Tell me what you’ve heard about our company.”
Open Lines of Communication
Starting with a company-focused question takes pressure off of the candidate to “perform” and acknowledges that an interview is a two-way street, where both parties have a voice. This creates an open line of communication, and it’s important that the interviewer be genuine in their curiosity about feedback, both positive and negative. The goal of getting the candidate to open up about what they’ve heard isn’t to correct them or negate their sources, it’s to learn about the company’s reputation, find out whether the candidate has existing connections within the company, and help answer any questions or address any concerns the candidate might have.
Address Red Flags
No company is perfect, and often, those who feel strongly enough about a company to publish reviews online are reporting on negative experiences. Whether from a customer or an employee (former or current), online red flags can be concerning for candidates, so an interviewer should be prepared to address them honestly and directly. For example, they might explain in detail what happened with a disgruntled customer and outline steps that were taken to rectify the situation, or they could connect the candidate with a current employee who can give a first-hand account of any issues and improvements that they’ve witnessed. Think of this as the company-focused equivalent of asking a candidate, “What are your greatest weaknesses?” It gives the interviewer a chance to acknowledge faults and mistakes while providing additional context and showing a desire to improve.
Celebrate Good News
Of course, there are a lot of reasons the candidate might be especially excited to join a company after researching them. Maybe the company has just won a big project in their market, gotten national recognition for safety or leadership, or launched a new division that the candidate is excited to learn more about. The interviewer can also offer insight into smaller, but no less important, milestones: an employee who recently celebrated a 25th work anniversary, for example, or internal promotions that employees worked hard to earn. Make sure to give the candidate a good idea of what they have to look forward to if they come on board.
Demonstrate Integrity and Growth
When asked about the most important quality in a potential hire, employers often place “integrity” at the top of their lists. Well, the same goes for candidates and the companies they want to work for. Asking what a candidate has heard about the company gives the interviewer a chance to offer examples of times when the company has adapted its processes and procedures based on employee or client concerns and suggestions. This demonstrates a willingness to listen to employees and what matters to them, to take action when issues are brought to light, and to learn and grow continuously.
The reality is, most candidates learn a lot about a company in the process of preparing for an interview, both the good and the bad. By asking up front what a candidate has heard about a company, the interviewer has an opportunity to address issues, celebrate wins, answer questions, and prove that the company is open to feedback - all of which will set them apart from their competition.