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The Company Research you Need to do Before your Interview

The Company Research you Need to do Before your Interview

So finally you have managed to score that big interview, and are looking forward to cracking it. Apart from all the preparation that you have already put in (LinkedIn Profile – check, other social media – check, a stellar resume – check, great communication skills – check, and everything else!), you also need to be thorough in your company research, or research about the company you are interviewing for. Imagine this scenario – you are interviewing for HP and if they ask you what HP stands for, you should be able to say it without batting an eyelid! Usually, in the larger scheme of things, we miss these details.

That however, isn’t quite acceptable since you are expected to know these things. So what should a thorough company research entail? Read on to find out!

Company Research Tip #1: The Company’s Mission and Vision

One of the most common interview questions that you are almost certain to be asked in any interview is – “why should we hire you?” Well of course for your skills, and everything else that your stellar resume says about you, but how do you put it in a way so that you are sure score? Keep what the mission, vision and values are, of the company in mind while answering this question. Tell them how you think your skills and capabilities are a reflection of what the company’s vision is, and compatible with its mission.

Read up all you can about the company’s mission and vision on its website, and on the various social media pages of the company. While you might have a vague idea, that probably will not suffice to help you come off confident during the interview. Doing this research will also help you do an honest assessment of whether you see yourself as a good fit for the company. And also whether the company is a good fit for you! That is probably the most important factor.

Every workplace has a set of values that are important to them. Google looks for “ability and determination,” Zappos values “fun and a little weirdness,” and GE fosters “bringing ideas to life.All are great things to value but quite different. When you’re considering different companies, think about their values and how your personality might fit in.” [Source: Levo.Com]

Company Research Tip #2: The Culture of the Company

It is simply not uncommon to be denied a job for no other reason apart from this – “You don’t seem to be a good fit for the culture of our organization.” And by no means can it be brushed away as a trivial reason. The culture of any company is about all those elements working in sync to sustain it. When you join it, you will be one of those elements. Do substantial research about this and keep asking yourself about how you “feel” about it. The culture of the company will have a direct influence on how you will be made to perceive your job.

Think about whether you would find it as an enabling experience, or whether it is something that would be difficult for you to ease into. Break it down into matching the approach you have towards work, and the approach that the culture of this new company would have. Is it compatible? Having this clarified before you appear for the interview will help you articulate yourself better, and will also put you in a good place where you have enough knowledge for informed negotiations – always a good place to be in.

Company Research Tip #3: What does the news say about it?

Just Google the company you are interviewing with and read up everything that it has been in news for. Remember that will very obviously be assumed that you are interested about the company (hint: you have made it to the interview!), which means you are expected to know the current affairs about the company. Even if you may not be quizzed about it, the knowledge will help you sustain or strike conversations.

Also check the company’s website for the recent news they might have made. Nothing can be more embarrassing than answering a question like, “So are your views on what the reason we were in news for, last week?” with a puzzled expression. Besides, you might also have a few questions of your own. Read up all you can about the company, and its latest news.

Company Research Tip #4: The Financial Health of the Company

While this may be a bit time-consuming, wrapping your head around it can be immensely valuable – for you personally, and for the company. The annual reports of all companies are usually made public on their website – which will help you more or less get an idea about the financial status of a company.

While this may be harder for older and settled organisations, it is comparatively easier in case it is a start-up you are interviewing for. In which case, it is all the more important for you to be thorough about your knowledge regarding the investments and the potential financial health of the start-up, so you have a fair idea about the benefits and risks you may expect from the company. The fact that you have done this homework should reflect in how you speak (but not in an incriminating, or questioning way at all!) during the interview and you will succeed in impressing your interviewer.

Company Research Tip#5: Feedback from ex/ current employees

It is a good idea to do a bit of (undercover) background research about the company’s culture, ethics and values through its current and even ex-employees. What they have to say might actually play the role of a heads up about your days to come at the company. If you have any friends there, talk to them, or do a bit of research to see if you can find someone who can put you in touch with someone. While doing this though, you might have to be careful. It is a good idea to get feedback from both a current, as well as an ex-employee.

Make a list of questions that you would want to ask beforehand, and keep them handy so you don’t miss out on any. Ask them how fair the HR policy is, what is the leave system like, how their work life balance is, and what their trajectory of growth has been like in the years that they’ve worked there. If it is an ex-employee you are speaking to, ask about why they left. While this information can be very useful, do remember to take it all with a pinch of salt. You can also use platforms such as Glassdoor to check out what the employees of a particular company have to say about it.

6. Company Research Tip#6: A sense of the overall trajectory – past and future

Analyze the growth of the company and get a sense of the overall trajectory of the company since its inception. Once again, this ground work helps not only you in getting a fairly good sense of what you are getting into, it will also impress the interviewer big time. This is important for two reasons, the first being your own knowledge about the company.

The second being, an inkling about how you may expect to grow in the few years you plan on spending there. This you may also bring up during the interview, and speak about how the company is growing and what the next big steps look like. Every company looks for people who are genuinely interested in what they do, and those are the people who get the most opportunities. If you are already one of them, all you need is a bit of preparation for that confidence to shine through.

It is also a good thing to be informed thoroughly about the different departments of the company (even those that may not directly be related to your profile or role). If you know who is going to be interviewing you, chances are, he/she knows a lot more about you than you would probably assume. Maybe you should do your own research on the interviewer as well – you never know how it may come in handy. And once you’ve done all of this, breathe easy because you really couldn’t be better equipped!

Navigating a Career Crossroad – 5 Things No One Tells Us

Navigating a Career Crossroad – 5 Things No One Tells Us

To be at a career crossroad, no matter at what stage of your career you are in, can be a truly unsettling feeling. To say that it is only normal for you to feel anxious and scared, might sound like we are belittling what you feel, but we only say so because we’ve been where you are. And though it may not seem so at the moment, it always passes. You may find a lot of advice coming your way, some solicited, but mostly unsolicited, and not know how to filter all of it. The purpose of this post is not to impose more advice on you, but to share with you things we wish someone had told us, which would surely have made navigating the career crossroad easy.

  1. It is alright to change your mind

    At times, we may think we want something, but along comes something else which we feel we may like better. During times like this, what we are usually told is to focus single mindedly on what we first looked forward to, and that changing your mind about a career option is not a wise move, but a fickle one. We would say, if you have thought it through and if there are other things that drive you more than what you initially were about to settle for, go for it.

  1. It is alright to not know what you want

    It is a typically Indian problem to have no say in what education we want to pursue, and hence what career we aspire to have. Crucial factors such as these are quite unfortunately socially determined. To realize that you do not know what you want, is one step towards progress. It is a step towards the fact that you are questioning the roles you are ‘expected’ to fill in. To not know what you want, is the first step towards finding out what you want.

  1. It is alright for you to take a break

    Taking a break at any point of time during your education, or your career, is almost considered a taboo in the Indian context, since it works against the established flow of the rat race we have all been a part of. Remember that taking a break only helps you think through things with more clarity and to truly discover what your calling is. And once you have discovered that, think about the “how” – remember that wisdom – a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step ? Use the time to break down your journey to  the stepping-stones you need to take to reach your calling.

  1. It is alright for you to not listen to anyone

    Like we said, most of the advice that would come your way during a career crossroad is unsolicited. You have every right to hear them but choose to not listen. Talking helps, sure, but choose the people talking to who calms you and makes you think clearly, instead of people who make you more anxious. This is where you need to open your Rolodex and get in touch with your team of trusted career advisors.

  1. It is alright for you to believe in your plan, even if no one else does

    At times, it becomes tough to even find a single person who believes in your plans for yourself.

    Even though they may love you, they may not have confidence in your plans, which will only pull you down. However, if you have thought it through and are sure about what you want (even if not 100%), put on blinkers and charge on. Go, make something happen!

Knowing these five things can truly make a difference to your stress levels when you are at a career crossroad – to care much less, and focus only on what is ahead of you, or on the goal you want to achieve. Telling yourself these five things every morning will help you shut out distractions and just stick to your plan of action, or if you don’t have one, it will help you come up with one! Remember that it is all a part of the game, and in retrospect, you will understand and appreciate how much you have learnt and grown in the process.

Applying for your first job? 5 Must-Dos to Triumph

Applying for your first job? 5 Must-Dos to Triumph

Applying for your first job is exciting, scary, intimidating, and stressful – all at the same time. You feel like ‘it’s now or never’ and that you need to secure a job at any cost! A first job will always be special, and one never forgets the entire process one goes through, prior to it. At any rate, it is important to start off with the right foot, and here are the 5 must-dos we think will ensure that you start right and help you triumph during this phase ! Once you’ve started right, half your work is done!

1. Applying for your first job : Prepare –

It’s mandatory to repeat the cliché about how there is no shortcut to success, here, because it’s actually true. Be thorough in your preparation– starting from your resume to your outfit for the interviews. Make a detailed list of all the organizations you want to apply to. State your reasons alongside the name of the organization, this gives the process a sense of purpose. Be methodical and arrange all the contact information. Find out if references will be required, it is always wise to keep one or two handy anyway. Set up a LinkedIn profile (and here’s why you must).

2. Applying for your first job :  Reach out to People you Trust –

Talk to people who have been in your situation before, and whose experience and knowledge you respect. Share your doubts and your concerns which you will most certainly experience this phase. Keep your eyes, ears and your mind open, listen to everything that comes your way. At the same time, sift the information so that you don’t end up getting confused and start panicking.

3. Applying for your first job : Choose Wisely –

Ask yourself what motivates you. Remember that ultimately, it is you who has to get up and go for work in the morning. Being stuck in an unhappy profession, more so, beginning with an unhappy profession is something that could really pull you down. So, like we said before, listen to everyone but choose only what you know is guided by your passion.

4. Applying for your first job : Know your own Worth

It may be true that you are an entry level professional, however, that shouldn’t leave you with a lack of bargaining power. Assess your skills and any past experience you may have gathered which will be relevant for the job you are applying to. Remember that we all invest in our careers, and many times are guided by the logic of doing things that will ‘give us an edge over others’. This is the time when you should take stock of everything and value yourself accordingly.

5. Applying for your first job : Be Professional

Adhere to timelines and any other specifications the organizations may have issued. Once you have completed an application, be patient and allow enough time before following up. If you’ve received an offer and have made up your mind to not go ahead, do let them know instead of keeping them waiting unnecessarily. After every round, sending in a polite thank you email, is a good way to go. Respect the organization’s time and also the fact that there could be other people who want the job, accept an offer only if you are sure to hold good on it!

Lastly, keep calm and keep reminding yourself that after all, it is only a job. Remember to eat and drink healthy and get plenty of fresh air. We understand how applying for your first job can be especially stressful, but do remember that it’s a phase where you need to get your best game to the table. What will truly make a difference is how calmly you are able to handle this. Again, we know it’s easier said than done, but we also know it’s not impossible and keeping all the above must-dos in mind will definitely help!

5 Things to Remember Before Asking For a Recommendation Letter

5 Things to Remember Before Asking For a Recommendation Letter

Whether it is an application for admissions into a university, for an internship or for a job, a recommendation letter or reference letter is a critical part of the process. These are especially important as they vouch for your character, as well as serve as a testimony to the skills you hope to demonstrate. They help give an insight into you as a person beyond your grades, your experience or your achievements.  It also matters who the recommendation is coming from and how well-known the person is in the field you are hoping to get into. Having good recommendations from the right people can help you turn from a potential candidate to the preferred choice. What is your role in making sure you get the kind of recommendation you need and deserve? Take care of these five things, and the rest will take care of itself.

1. How you ask matters –

Always reach out to someone who actually knows you and you have been more or less in touch with. Even if you haven’t kept in touch with this person in the sense of the term, it shouldn’t be the case that you haven’t spoken to him/her in years and end up asking for a recommendation out of the blue. Provide context and explain why you think h/she is the best person to recommend you. Word your email/conversation in a manner where you are actually asking him/her and not taking it for granted that (s)he will be writing one for you.

2. Ask well in advance before deadline –

The deadline is in a day or two and you suddenly remember you haven’t reached out for the recommendation. One of the worst ways to go about getting a recommendation, ever. Value the time of the person you are asking a recommendation of, and make sure you reach out well in advance, with at least two weeks’ notice, so that there is ample time for the letter, and the follow up and any edits if necessary.

3. Be specific in your requirement –

Mention exactly what you need the recommendation for. You may be good in a number of things, but writing any of that in the recommendation letter wouldn’t matter if it doesn’t speak about how good you are at what you are applying for. Make sure your recommendation letter is perfectly suited to the opportunities you are aiming for.

4. Include all relevant details –

Include your cover letter/statement of purpose, your resume and any other document which may give your referer a good sense of your accomplishments in the area. However, include only the relevant details so that your referee doesn’t have to spend time looking for parts which are important.

5. Be patient, and polite with the follow up –

Allow at least one week before sending a polite reminder enquiring about the status of the recommendation letter. Sending frequent reminders is a sure way to sabotage a fine recommendation letter. Understand that your referee is doing you a favor and not the other way round. It can be hard to be patient during this time, but it is a virtue worth mastering!

One of the most important things in the process of asking for a recommendation letter is to remember to be grateful and thank your referee appropriately after (s)he submits it. It would also be nice if you kept your referer updated about your application process, regardless of whether or not you make it. Keeping in touch and investing time is always worth it, having to ask for a recommendation is only one of the many situations where this effort pays off!

Cracking Campus Placements – 5 Tips to Help You Get Prepared

Cracking Campus Placements – 5 Tips to Help You Get Prepared

Almost every Indian graduate knows how big a deal the Campus Placements is. There is no reason why it should be such a big deal. Unfortunately, the social systems around us do not concur with this thought. Every fresher feels like this is it, this is the end of the world – but it isn’t, it is just the beginning. And if you begin well, you will finish well. To help you with your placement preparation, we have put together some time-tested strategies. Here are five tips that could help ease the process for you.

  1. Work on your resume

Spend enough time polishing your CV. It is safe to say that your CV is the single most important thing in the recruitment process. Make sure it has all that your employer needs to know about you and not a word extra. Creating a CV can indeed seem a daunting task if you’ve never done it before, so we encourage you to have a look at our guide on how to create the perfect resume, which will give you a fair sense of everything that there is to know about resumes.

  1. Be organized in your approach –

Maintain a notebook where you keep a list of the organizations you are applying to, the deadlines for the applications and the specific requirements these applications may have. Update it every single day. Sync your calendar on your phone so that you get reminders for all important dates and don’t miss any. Keep your print outs of your resume, passport sized photographs and any other document which may be required, ready in multiple copies. Do all this well in advance so that you are saved the stress and worry in the last minute.

  1. Identify your area of interest

Spend time thinking about what it is that you are passionate about. Find something that you would love to wake up to. Different people have different skills and interests, what works for me, may not work for you. It is important to be able to identify what exactly it is that you would love to do, otherwise you might have to spend a considerable time dreading Mondays, and the next three days of the week!

  1. Brush up your communication skills –

The Campus Placements process will typically involve rounds of Personal Interviews as well as Group Discussions. How you communicate and speak can be game changers in these rounds. Being able to articulate yourself eloquently is a rare skill and a skill worth acquiring which sets you apart from most. This is something that you absolutely must spend some time working on. Have a look at a post we wrote some time ago, on ways to brush up your communication skills. We hope this helps you.

  1. Cooperate with the campus placement department –

This is probably one of the most important factors. Cooperating with the department which is organizing the placements at your university will make the entire process much smoother for you. Keep communicating with them so that you don’t miss any important deadlines. Send them your resumes and other documents they may want on time so that they will be able to schedule your interviews. Remember this is a team that is working for a lot of other students just like you, and that it is not an easy job. Do your bit to help them.

The last, but really the most important thing is to remember to not get stressed or worked up. We understand that it is easier said than done, but remember that it is not the end of the world. The world really ends only once. When it actually ends. Anything else before that is simply a false alarm. Don’t give in to stress and tension, you will be doing yourself more harm than good.

Everyone you meet will have a ton of advice for you, listen to them politely, but understand that the decision is ultimately yours to make. Take breaks to recharge yourself, you don’t want to be running out of steam in the middle of the campus placements race.

We understand that cracking campus placements to get a good first job can be a deciding factor for your career graph ahead and acknowledge that it is important to be able to do your best. But when you know you are doing your best, give yourself a pat on your back and stay calm. Things will surely work out. Be patient and keep going in the direction that your heart pulls you (but listen to your head at times too!)

Writing a Resume for the First Time? Here is what you should know as an entry level professional

Writing a Resume for the First Time? Here is what you should know as an entry level professional

The very first thing that should be in place, when you start applying for jobs is your resume. If this is your first job application experience, Writing a Resume for the First Time can get confusing – what to put in to your resume, what to leave out and which format to follow. Also, all the information out here on the internet, could get a little overwhelming, leaving you more confused than ever. A few weeks ago, we compiled an essential guide to writing the perfect resume. While going through that will give you a fairly broad and exhaustive idea about everything that you need to know about resumes and how to write them (believe us, we’ve done our research); in this post we tell you four things you should take care of especially if you are an entry-level professional.

The Layout –

We speak from experience when we say, it is tempting to create an ornate resume. We have been at both ends of the spectrum, when we’ve given in to the temptation as entry-level professionals, and now, when we screen resumes and cringe at some of the chosen layouts and styles. It is only natural to feel like you have to do everything possible to stand out, however, remember that a simple, honest and crisp resume is your best bet to get to the next stage. Maintain a standard font size, and a decent font style (Times New Roman or Arial, preferably). Strictly avoid using colors or fancy borders/designs. Unless of course, it’s a design job you are applying to! Like they say, exceptions prove the rule.

The Content –

List only the most important things your recruiter would want to know about you, this should also include things that are pertinent to the role you are applying to. Internships, term projects, summer jobs all add credence. If you’ve won a fancy dress competition when you were in grade two, or a debating competition when you were in grade six, you can be sure it wouldn’t fascinate your recruiter much. However, if you have been a consistent debating champion, you must show it on your resume (in a balanced manner, not in a boastful way).

The Language –

State the facts, don’t narrate. The point of a resume is to get you a foot in the door – that coveted interview call. Save the narration for the interview. Avoid writing in first person, apart from a short ‘about me’. Do not make it seem as though you are blowing your own trumpet. Believe us, a lot of times we may not even intend to sound arrogant through what we write, but end up sounding thus. Read it out loud to yourself or have a friend read it aloud to you – is the tone professional and confident ? Then, you are all set!

The Length

Ideally, your resume should not exceed one page (especially if you are an entry-level professional), however, if you do have valid accomplishments to display on your resume, make sure it does not exceed two pages, at any cost. Anything beyond two pages will come across as content put together simply for the sake of it and won’t hold your recruiter’s interest for long, no matter how credible the work you’ve done is. Compress your resume to one page, or at most two pages.

Once you’ve created your resume, it is essential to run it by people whose experience you trust and value, your mentors (ideally, some of them should be professionals). Gain as much feedback as you can, and work on it until you feel happy with the results. If you get this first step right, the rest of it becomes easier here on. Don’t forget to read the post we have put together on complete details (including different formats you may use) on creating the perfect resume. We wish you success on this new step of your career journey!