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Be Prepared for Prepared Candidates

Newsletter • volume 4 • number 1

Traditionally, students have been able to find information about prospective employers through their school's Career Placement Office. Professionals re-engineered out of a job can take advantage of coaching sessions with outplacement counselors. But these resources pale in comparison with the vast amount of "extracurricular" information that has become available to all candidates in recent years. Consider the following:

Wet Feet Press. This company sells profiles of major businesses for $35 each. In addition to providing a summary of the company, its culture, and its recruiting process, Wet Feet gives interview tips, the insider's scoop, and things candidates should watch out for. They also offer separate guides with advice on how to ace case study-type questions favored by consulting firms and others.

The Internet. The Internet is a job seeker's gold mine. Candidates share interview tips via email, and as McKinsey discovered, post the best case study questions of leading firms on the Internet as soon as they hear them. Some companies - Silicon Graphics is one - use their websites to disseminate questions used by their competitors like Microsoft and Intel.

Employer Websites. Employers, eager to find the best people in a highly competitive marketplace, often post detailed job qualifications and information about their corporate cultures on their websites. The idea is to weed out candidates who won't fit either the job or the company. The problem, however, is that some candidates use this information to refashion themselves into exactly the kind of person companies say they're seeking.

In the best case scenarios, candidates use these resources simply to become better informed about prospective employers. But this information can be used to deliberately deceive interviewers. These days, "prepared" doesn't just mean that candidates know the kinds of questions they'll be asked and the competencies interviewers may be looking for. It also means they've thoroughly rehearsed their answers and may have developed a whole repertoire of misleading stories to back up their claims. Given this, what are you doing to strengthen your interview skills so that well-prepared candidates don't get away with telling you just "what you want to hear?