Ajarn Mark Caldwell Blog

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Interview Tip: Do Some Basic Research

A lot of job candidates out there are wondering how they can set themselves apart from the crowd and increase the odds of landing the job they want.  Well here’s a really easy way…

Do your basic research and due diligence on the prospective employer before your first interview.  This is good practice whether you’re looking for full-time employment or just a little contract work.  Show the interviewer that you are at least interested enough in the work to hit a search engine or two.

I have conducted numerous interviews for application and database developers over the past year, and one of the questions that I always ask is, “How do you stay up-to-date on the latest developments in technology or programming?”  Now this is a fairly easy question as there is no exact right answer, I’m just trying to learn more about what type of person you are; asking about your habits and willingness to invest even a little energy in your own professional growth.  Typical answers I would expect to receive are, “I read blogs on my lunch break (or on my own time).” or “I just picked up this book on query tuning” or “I read the ________ newsletter/magazine” or “I go to SQLSaturdays and the PASS Community Summit.”.  You don’t have to be pursuing a college degree or Master’s certification, although those are both noble goals; I’m just looking to see if you are doing anything on your own to stay current, or do you just drift along like a dead fish floating downstream waiting to get dumped out at the lowest point.

But it’s also a test to get a feel for how much effort you put into researching this job.  You see, I’m on LinkedIn, and you can find my profile easily by entering my name and the name of my company into any of the big search engines; and I know you have at least that much information when we have scheduled that first phone interview and you are waiting for my call.  And if you were to go to my LinkedIn profile, you would find a link to my blog here.  Now I don’t expect you to claim to have read everything I wrote and that it changed your life (although it could).  Hey, you could even say, “I read what you wrote and I disagree with you on these three main points…”  That is fine.  In fact that is probably even better because it shows me that you have an opinion and are willing to discuss it.  But what really surprises me is that nobody in the last year has even said to me, “hey, I saw your profile on LinkedIn and noticed that you have a blog.” much less commented on any of its content, or even lack thereof.

Believe me, it makes a huge positive impression if you can throw something into the conversation that shows me you did a little research on your own.  It shows initiative, creativity, and an interest in the job; all of which are attractive attributes to an employer.  And all the more so, given how rare this seems to be.  So here you go…a really easy way to stand out from the crowd.