Why Interview a Company?
I want to be happy in my work. I want to be purposeful. I want to make a difference. I want to have the ability to be a person. I want to share. I want to serve. I want to love and be loved. I want to have the chills of excitement and some of the pressures of climbing a mountain.
When people join a company or organization, they become part of a family. There is a culture, relationships, history, ownership along with the pains and memories of being part of something.
As with everything, there is good and not so good. The best way to learn about a company is through talking to people that have experience working for or with the company. This means employees, vendors, partners, leaders etc. When I worked for Booz Allen, I would seek to meet and speak with people working in administration, the cafeteria, security guards, and support staff. Everyone has purpose and everyone has a story.
One quick example was a story told by a Chubb security guard named Janice about Dean O’Hare the CEO that retired more than 10 years before I got there. When Dean walked in the door, he came with his briefcase. Everyday, he would come in and set it on the stairs and greet people coming in. He would ask and answer questions and express gratitude. During holidays, Dean would go around shaking hands and he made himself known to be a present.
There were many stories that I heard about Dean. I never knew him or met him. The memory of him lived on in the people and that was the culture that many wanted for Chubb. It was a good memory but the company had changed when the next CEO took over. Many people spoke of a fractured culture and the impact it had on them.
A picture formed about the organizational change taking place from changes in leadership and practice. Some changes good and some challenging. The underlying question when learning about a company is, “How will I fit?”
Building relationships, meeting people, growing and learning is all part of the process of interviewing companies. It is not a waste of time or energy. It does consume some time and resources but there is always an opportunity to learn and gain value.
Love to Work for X
I personally had the sense and desire to work for specific organizations in my life. I do feel blessed and lucky to have had the opportunities. In some cases, many thought that my desired outcome was impossible. I chose to ignore the unwritten statistics and pay attention to the possibilities. When I looked at an organization, I wanted to understand what they do and how they impact the world. Who they are as an organization and culturally as a people. If you love amusement parks, wouldn’t it be great to work for Disney? If you love airplanes, wouldn’t it be cool to work for Delta? Whatever your passion or interest, there are people in your network, maybe only a degree or two, that know someone connected the organization you have an idea or thought about.
What if there is no connection at all?
Let’s say that you are a big fan of Lego. I just went to LinkedIn and typed in Lego. I filtered by US and..
1,261 people with public profiles work for Lego. I can start there and then filter further by connections 1/2. I have about 6 connections including one 2nd connection a person in global talent management. I can start there. In this case I am using LinkedIn, but there are other methods of doing this. You can use almost any social media tool to ask a question about a company or organization. There is a very good chance someone will respond to help.
I have another post on doing homework about a company.
I Can’t Get a Call or Any Contact
If you want to work for the NSA as a secret agent, it may be a challenge to get another secret agent to talk to you. That is very true! There are companies that are very difficult to get into or even to find a relationship. If this happens, you can look to professional organizations with connections like (APQC) or recruiters. If that doesn’t work, email me.
I Can Get a Call, Now What?
- Know what you want to learn.
- Know what your interest in the company is.
- Learn about who you will speak with or meet.
Let’s focus on the third bullet. Why would a person want to meet with you? What do you have to offer them?
There are many reasons why people choose to meet. I have found that people have really great personal stories and they like to tell them. How do you react to people that are interested in you? There will be the questions about why you are interested in speaking to them or learning from them but if you are clear with intentions, many will talk to you. Well before I started at Chubb, my good friend and mentor Ron B. introduced me to one of his friends named “Chip.” I interviewed Chip when I first heard about Chubb. Chip was retiring from Chubb after many years of being with the company. His insights and understanding were very relevant and he also had relationships that were current. Chip had thoughts about Chubb, but also offered to coach me. Chip inspired me! When I did start going through the process of engaging with Chubb, Chip had messages of faith, hope and inspiration. I maintain contact with him to this day and he is still an inspiration!
A little known secret concerning very senior leaders is that leadership at the very top of an organization can be a lonely place. There are many reasons for this, but for some leaders having an outlet to just be themselves is often refreshing. I have asked many senior military officers about the transition to civilian life and one of the common responses is around relationships as a civilian.
What to Ask
Question #1 – How did you get to where you are today?
This is a personal question and it is important because it establishes the baseline of a story about this person. Understanding how a person got to where they are is important because it can teach, inspire, instruct and raise awareness. In the Navy, some people choose to go from Seaman to Admiral. It is a long hard road, but filled with adventure and many lessons. Many others have chosen to go ROTC or through the Naval Academy. There are many benefits to understand the path folks have chosen and the stories that come along with it.
Question #2 – Why are you here at company / organization x?
Question #3 – What keeps you awake at night?
If you have a chance, meet people for coffee or your choice of beverage / food. Meet them if they are willing to meet you with the intent of learning from them. If you do have an interest in the organization after you meet with them, be honest about it. There isn’t a person on this earth that has done everything for themselves. It isn’t possible as a human being. Many people don’t mind talking or sharing. Once they know your intent or what you think, they may have suggestions, recommendations, advice or they can flat out help you. Being open, honest and clear about your intention is key.
I hope this helps you as I can tell you that people (MANY people) have helped me and I personally have taken meetings, phone calls, coffee, lunch etc. to speak with people that may also need help, advice or a connection.