For most of us there are three things more important in our lives than anything else. Firstly, there is our family relationship, partner, children, etc. Secondly, there is our home, and thirdly our job. And yet, despite this, so many people do not adequately research the organisation to which they have applied.
Retail recruitment consultants often complain that so many employer interviews are cut short when the first question asked is, “have you been to one of our stores?” and the answer is “No”. If you’re going to work for a retail firm then, quite frankly, not to have visited a store beforehand is insulting to the employer. In a straw poll, most consultants said that about 20% of candidates do not do this even if they have been advised to do so by the consultant.
Rule number one when interviewing at a retailer or hospitality company: visit at least one of their sites.
Just visiting a site may not be enough. You should do your own SWOT analysis of the site you visit. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. See our article online by searching ‘SWOT retail appointment’. Be sure to focus more on the strengths and opportunities, for no employer wishes to be told that their business is weak or threatened.
The next vital piece of research is to find out what has been said about them in the press recently. This is easy. Just do an online Google check on the company’s name and look for anything that has been said about them. At interview, focus on the positives and avoid any scandals if you can.
Look at the company’s own website and see what they say about themselves. You should spend some time on this and make sure you know the name of the CEO. Interviewers often refer to their CEO by their first name and presume you know to whom they are referring. You will look foolish if you say, “Who’s Michael?”.
If it’s a public company, then know the share price. This is easily found online. You should have some idea about how the company is performing. If it is not a public company, then see if there are any recent announcements concerning performance.
If you know who your interviewer is then you should most certainly research them. They will almost surely be on some form of social media and you may find useful clues that will help you. For example, if you have a similar hobby or support the same football team.
Whilst talking about social media, check your own profiles as you can be sure the employer will research you. If you have anything remotely controversial or potentially embarrassing on your Facebook account then make it totally private or remove it. Facebook probably loses more job opportunities for people than it helps find. If you’re on Linkedin, then make sure your profile is up to date.
This may sound obvious but check, double check, and then check again where you are going for the interview. Check your journey time so that you are not late. Being late is forgivable and will probably not be too damaging. But, being late will make you flustered and you will not give your best.
Almost all interviewers invite you to ask questions. The quality of your questions may be crucial to your success or failure. Questions about the company’s expansion plans, most challenging trading areas and how they beat the competition all go down well. Questions about any recent bad press may not help; and questions about your remuneration, holiday entitlement and the like belong at the end of the process and not at first interview.
Do have a good idea about who their competitors are. You will often be asked this. Be careful not to insult them. For example, if you’re interviewing with Cartier you should not suggest that H Samuel is their competitor. Sainsbury’s is an obvious competitor to Tesco; but both may take umbrage at being compared to Lidl. When discussing competitors, be sure to position the employer positively in comparison to any competitor.
Finally, be prepared to be asked about other irons you have in the fire. If you are interviewing elsewhere there is nothing wrong with telling the employer this. You may be asked which would be your preference.
The only answer that the employer wants to hear is that they are the first choice.
You may expect to be shown the door if you say that their competitor would be your first choice.
Whatever you say, you must sound like you are very keen on their job even if you are not. Let’s face it, you want to be offered. A job offer boosts your confidence, and may be good enough that they become your first choice. If you don’t get offered, your confidence is damaged and you’ve missed an opportunity.