I had a great comment (Ryan McCauley’s) on yesterday’s post that led to a great conversation on Twitter. The comment mentioned a phone screen candidate that was turned down out of hand, because the guy didn’t know what the company did. I personally think that what a candidate (especially in a phone screen) knows about the company is way, way down on the list of priorities. So I asked Twitter:
On the heels of a blog comment: Why is it important for an interviewee to know what my company does? A SQL Server guy should know SQL, yeah? [And] Ok, clarifing: A commenter said he didn’t bring a guy in from a phone screen bc he didn’t know what the company did. Not a dealbreaker 4 me.
There was a large and varied response. About 80% of people really disagree with me. In their opinion, it’s very important to know about a company. The arguments for this are varied:
- It shows a bare bones level of professionalism.
- If you’re to lazy to google my company, you’re probably too lazy to do any solid work.
- It’s important to do so that you can find out if you’re a good fit for the company.
- And on the heels of that, we want someone who’s a good fit so they’ll stick around for a long time.
- Sort of tied to that, it shows you’re interested in OUR company, not just ANY company.
- And candidates should know what a company does, so they know if they have an objection to working for them (e.g., if you’re anti-porn, you might not want to work for Penthouse).
I’m paraphrasing greatly here, of course. And I understand that I’m not likely to change anyone’s mind. I don’t mind that. I do want to explain why most of these reasons don’t speak to me as an interviewer, and hey…I happen to have a blog where I can do that!
I suppose I can see how this factors in, but I’m more interested in communication skills, appropriate level of politeness, and general attitude. I personally wouldn’t have a bad reaction to this scenario:
“So, do you know what our company does?”
“Actually, no I don’t.”
“GAH! WHY are you even TALKING TO ME???”
If the candidate clearly answers my phone screen and interview questions well, it already shows he or she isn’t lazy. We here at MidnightDBA have spent a lot of time on our interview process. If you impress me, you’ve done a lot of work over many years already. A 10 second Google search proves absolutely nothing.
I know that the client I work for manufactures kitchen supplies. This fact tells me absolutely nothing about whether I’d be a good fit as a full time employee. That takes longer to figure out. It has more to do with the company culture, which you can’t figure out from a website, or even a series of interviews. It has to do with the technology, which I do ask about in the interview. It has to do with a good many things…none of which I can learn about on their website.
Trying to find a fit this way is very like trying to find your one true love via their dating site page. Sure, he’s pretty and can cook, but is he going to yell at me if I ding the car? That only comes out after some time spent together.
Long term potential
Same thing. I have never ever heard of anyone leaving a company because, after several weeks working there, they found out the company was in banking. What do you think the candidate will see on the website that will show them that this is the place they really want to work?
They like my company! They really really like my company!
There are places I’d really like to work. I know I’d like to work there not from their website, but because I happen to know about the company, usually from people that work there. I know it sounds like I’m sort-of-kind-of reversing what I’ve been saying: there really are cases where a candidate would be passionate about the company itself. And yes, that would impress me.
I never said it wouldn’t impress me. It would, and ideally I’d love for the candidate to passionately want to work for this particular company. What I said was, it’s not a deal breaker if that passion isn’t there.
To hit the dating metaphor again: it’s great if you fall in love at first sight, and that bears out over time. But it’s not how most relationships operate.
Obvious deal breakers
This is the only thing that, to me, has merit. You shouldn’t hire a candidate if they object to your product or service. But even that is pretty rare: most companies are fairly unobjectionable on paper. And if you’re a porn company, you know that’s a hot-button topic, so you know to make sure the guy understands what you do before you hire him.
There’s my rather large 2 cents. What do you think? Am I missing anything? Want to sound off? Comment away.